Patriots HC Bill Belichick wasn’t clear about whether QB Cam Newton would be available for Week 5 against Denver.
Assuming there are no further positive COVID-19 tests, the Patriots’ Week 5 matchup against Denver will proceed as scheduled. The game, of course, was postponed until Monday night after cornerback Stephon Gilmore contracted the virus earlier in the week. He obviously won’t be on the field with his teammates versus the Broncos.
What isn’t as transparent, however, is whether quarterback Cam Newton, who currently remains on the COVID-19 reserve list, will be cleared to return.
Head coach Bill Belichick told reporters that both Gilmore and Newton won’t practice on Saturday. The team reopened its practice facility after keeping things virtually exclusive the previous three days. Unfortunately for answer-needy Patriots fans, Belichick provided no further details, as he subsequently deflected questions about who still start under center vs Denver.
If you ask us, that is a bad sign for Newton’s availability for the game.
“I’m not getting into a bunch of hypotheticals,” Belichick said during a conference call on Saturday. “We’re taking it day by day, hour by hour. One thing that we’ve learned this year, repeatedly, has been we have to be ready to adjust and adapt to changes and modifications in the way we do things, and in some cases decisions that really come down to a very short amount of time.”
“I’m really not trying to make a lot of long-term decisions here, or even game decisions, until we can actually get out there today and start to go through our team preparation process together and get a better sense of where we are and what we need to do in the next 48-plus hours.”
We know that Belichick loves nothing more than keeping an opponent guessing— forcing Denver to prepare for all of Newton, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham is pretty brilliant — but these quotes make it seem like he isn’t at all confident in the three-time Pro Bowler being activated prior to Monday night.
According to Ryan Hannable of WEEI, the Patriots are planning to roll with Stidham if Newton isn’t given the green light. Though the 2019 fourth-round pick looked better than Hoyer in Week 4 (that isn’t saying much), his cameo off the bench likely didn’t inspire much confidence in the coaching staff, as he he finished 5-of-13 for 60 yards and one touchdown compared to two interceptions.
Since it hasn’t been 10 days since Newton’s initial diagnosis, he can (in consultation with the NFL) only return if he receives two negative PCR tests, with each one coming at least 24 hours apart. With the Patriots’ game a little over 48 hours away, the superstar quarterback is running out of time to get cleared.
We’ll provide further updates as they are made available, but, barring a shocking turn of events, Patriots fans should be preparing for Newton to be shelved on the COVID-19 reserve list for the second consecutive game.