It's possible that New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton could return to the team this week ahead of Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, but head coach Bill Belichick didn't have a firm update on the QB's status on Monday afternoon.
“Again, any player that would come back to the team off the COVID (list) would have to go through a medical clearance," Belichick said on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria."
"That would be part of any player’s return to the team from that situation. We’ll have to see how that goes.”
Newton reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, Oct. 2. He is one of four Patriots players who've been put on the COVID-19/reserve list, along with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and practice squad defensive lineman Bill Murray.
What is the protocol for players who've tested positive to return to the team?
ProFootballTalk's Charean Williams explained it well on Monday:
"For a player who tests positive but remains asymptomatic, the player can return 10 days after the first positive test if the team’s head primary-care physician determines, in consultation with the league, that it’s safe for the player to return to the facility. Alternatively, an asymptomatic player may return if he receives negative PCR virus tests, at least 24 hours apart, if (again) the team’s head primary-care physician determines, in consultation with the league, that it’s safe for the player to return to the facility."
Ten days from Newton's positive test would be Monday, Oct. 12. Newton's father, Cecil, told ABC 11's Bridget Condon over the weekend that his son has no symptoms.
The Patriots are not expected to hit the practice field again until Wednesday. They're scheduled to play the Broncos on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. This game has been rescheduled twice due to Patriots players testing positive for COVID-19.
Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty on Saturday questioned whether the league and NFLPA care enough about player safety. Belichick was asked on OMF if he's lost trust in the league over the way it's handled COVID-19 protocols, and he noted that everyone is doing what they can to deal with a difficult problem.
"I think everyone's doing their best to handle them. These problems aren't easy," Belichick said on WEEI. "I think there are a lot of smart people involved here, and there are a lot of people trying to do the right thing handling the football side and medical side to it, trying to balance it all together. Everybody wants to play, so I think we're all just trying to find a way to make that work safely."