The National Football League’s coronavirus problems widened on Saturday, as one of the game’s biggest stars—New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton—tested positive for Covid-19, an outbreak on the Tennessee Titans grew and a member of the Kansas City Chiefs received a positive test.
The Patriots’ game scheduled for Sunday against the Chiefs, a marquee matchup featuring the reigning Super Bowl champions, will be postponed until Monday or Tuesday, the NFL said. It wasn’t immediately clear who tested positive with the Chiefs.
The NFL’s first coronavirus crisis began earlier this week with the Titans outbreak, which resulted in their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week being postponed until later in the season. On Saturday, three additional members of the Titans organization received positive test results, bringing the total of players and staff who have tested positive this week to 16.
The Patriots were scheduled to fly to Kansas City early Saturday afternoon but are standing by as the team and league evaluate the situation. Without specifically identifying Newton, the Patriots said in a statement that a player tested positive and was immediately placed in isolation. A person familiar with the matter said Newton was the recipient of the positive test.
The Patriots also said players, coaches and staff who were in close contact with the player had tested negative on point-of-care tests. But the continued positives inside the Titans has demonstrated the virus’s incubation time often means that it is several days until someone turns up positive.
Newton is one of the game’s biggest names. After playing with Carolina Panthers, the team that took him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and saw him become the NFL’s MVP before injuries derailed his career, he signed this offseason with the Patriots. In New England, he replaced longtime superstar Tom Brady, who departed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after winning six Super Bowls with the team he led for two decades.
The continuing escalation of the Titans’ outbreak could now throw their game next week against the Buffalo Bills into jeopardy as well. The Titans’ team facility has been closed since Tuesday, when the first positive test results this week came back. The Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee’s opponent last Sunday, also shuttered its facility on Tuesday before reopening on Thursday. No members of the Vikings have tested positive so far this week.
The situation has already prompted the NFL to make changes to its pandemic protocols. A memo sent to teams on Thursday implemented additional measures that apply to teams that may have a cluster of cases and an opponent who may have been exposed.
The NFL isn’t playing in a sealed “bubble” environment like the National Basketball Association and some others. Instead, its protocols involve a series of expensive measures designed to stymie the virus’s spread: daily PCR coronavirus tests except game day, efforts to prevent virus transmission where possible, and high-tech devices to track the close contacts of players and staffers.
The positives in Tennessee weren’t the first during the season or preseason, but it’s the first instance in which the virus rapidly spread through an organization despite these protocols charged with preventing that precise type of spread.
Write to Andrew Beaton at email@example.com
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