Mike Reiss of ESPN reported the news from the latest round of testing. The Patriots were forced to shut down their facilities again Sunday after having their fourth positive coronavirus test in eight days. Cam Newton, Stephon Gilmore and defensive tackle Bill Murray are on New England's reserve/COVID-19 list.
The NFL rescheduled the Patriots-Broncos game for next Sunday as part of the league's latest reshuffling of the schedule caused by the pandemic.
While the Patriots' outbreak has been far less pronounced than the Tennessee Titans, who have had more than 20 players and staff test positive, the spacing out of the positive tests has made it impossible to adequately prepare for games. New England worked remotely Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before briefly returning to team facilities Saturday.
The NFL requires teams have back-to-back days without positive tests before allowing them to resume in-person work. Even with all of these safeguards, the incubation period for the virus sometimes delays positive tests for someone who has been exposed.
Releasing a standard, 17-week schedule with no additional byes for teams as coronavirus safeguards already looks shortsighted. If the league had added extra byes into the schedule, it could have more room to maneuver.
If the Patriots, Broncos, Tennessee Titans or Pittsburgh Steelers (or one of their future opponents) have an outbreak and need to postpone a game at some point the remainder of the season, the NFL has no available options on the schedule. The Broncos and Steelers could wind up being affected despite having no positive tests.
It's possible the NFL winds up having to add at least a week to the end of the regular season to combat cancellations.