After not having to send any of their players to the NFL’s new Reserve/Covid-19 list between its introduction in mid-June and Week 3 of the regular season more than three months later, the New England Patriots now have three on it: quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore have tested positive for the novel Coronavirus on Friday and Tuesday, respectively, with practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray also joining them on the list.
Under the league’s previous stipulations, all three of them had to sit out at least five days before returning regardless of whether or not they developed symptoms or not. This waiting period has now been eliminated, however: as first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the league has decided to modify its Coronavirus protocols — including the rules for players returning from the Covid-19 reserve list.
Those rules now look as follows:
Players experiencing Covid-19 symptoms have to remove from team facilities as soon as possible and cannot return until they are tested negative twice separated by 24 hours.
Players who tested positive but are asymptomatic will have to follow the following three steps before being allowed to return:
- 10 days have passed since the initial positive test; or
- Two consecutive negative tests separated by 24 hours, and
- Return approved by the team’s and the NFL’s medical staff.
Players who tested positive and are symptomatic will have to go through the following five steps before being allowed to return:
- At least 10 days have passed since the Covid-19 symptoms were first reported to a team’s medical staff, and
- At least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medication, and
- Other symptoms like cough or shortness of breath have improved, and
- The return is approved by the team’s and the NFL’s medical staff, and
- Local regulations and requirements are met.
So, what does all of this mean for the Patriots and the three players mentioned above? In theory, the change in protocol could speed up their return timeline a bit. While the aforementioned five-day window that was originally a part of the league’s rules did no longer concern Cam Newton after he already tested positive last Friday, it could be good news for Stephon Gilmore if he — like Newton — remains asymptomatic: all he needs to return now is two negative tests separated by 24 hours.
While getting them back on the field soon will be the preferable outcome from a football perspective, the most important thing, of course, is that they fully recover from Covid-19 before rejoining their teammates — some of which had been in close contact with both of them. Still, the Patriots, from a football perspective, should feel good about this procedural change.