They couldn’t play. Period. In the wake of Cam Newton’s reported positive test for COVID-19 on Friday night, postponement was the only reasonable option the NFL could have handed down.
And even their working plan now – to play the game either Monday or Tuesday – is aggressive and probably too optimistic.
Unless the league wants to court a repeat of what happened with the Titans last week, there will be no Pats on planes for the next week.
Tennessee already provided the case study of what not to do. Their timeline matches the Patriots'. An individual tested positive Friday, in their case a coach. Point of care tests were done Saturday and they all came back negative.
The Titans climbed on a plane for a game against Minnesota, flew back and now – with three more positive tests reported Saturday – have 16 positive tests.
Was it sharing air on a plane for about eight hours on Saturday and Sunday that spread the virus? Seems like a reasonable theory even for an English major especially when you consider nobody on the Vikings has yet tested positive and they were rolling around with Titans players all afternoon.
So, with that information at your disposal, do you feel great about flying if you’re a player or a coach? And why stop there? The health of the pilots and flight attendants – flight attendants especially – are in the lurch as well on an airplane.
This is where, in my opinion, the league has a civic responsibility to exercise that “abundance of caution” we’ve been hearing so much about since March.
Newton has – over the past few days – interacted with teammates and coaches who have then gone home and spent time with their families who then go and interact with their friends, classmates, etc.
Realistically, the contact tracing down the line is a lot more important to people in Massachusetts and around the team than whether or not we get Patriots-Chiefs.
Does it suck that a marquee game is going away for a while? Does it suck that a star player is ill? Does it waste all that prep time and planning? Does it – even in some tiny way – perhaps impact the competitive balance and fairness that the NFL strives so hard to maintain (or masquerade that they try to maintain)?
Yes it does.
But the reality is, the virus is in charge. We can live as close to normally as we want – personally, I have – but when it’s in your presence in an active way, you react accordingly and take precautions to make sure it’s contained.
Let’s be honest, the NFL is already playing with house money on this operation. They’ve gotten through a month of camp and three weeks of regular season play before the virus created a little bit of chaos. That’s waaaaayyyy longer than most anyone figured the league would make it.
If a few teams have to hit pause, the rescheduling gets hard, TV commitments get messed with and people wind up with popsicle headaches trying to sort it all out, c’est la f****** vie.
How do things go from here for the Patriots? First things first, they have to wait, keep testing and make sure all close contacts of Newton – fellow quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch for example – are all OK (again, not forgetting that almost all these people all have families they are going home to).
They have to listen to their players who may express reticence about forging ahead with a Tuesday game.
It may make things complicated for Week 5. It may make things complicated for a while past that. A wise man often says, “It is what it is…”
Bottom line, the NFL and the Patriots organization needs to do right by the people who are infected and all the people potentially affected by this test.
And stay off the damn plane.