There's some confusion out there as to when exactly Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore can get back on the field -- thanks in part to the NFL's website needing an update -- so let's try to clean up some of those loose ends here.
The number to know is two, as in two consecutive negative COVID tests taken 24 hours apart. That's what asymptomatic players need to get back into the mix after initially testing positive.
Gilmore tweeted on Wednesday that he has not yet experienced any symptoms. If that continues, because his test from Tuesday morning came back as positive, he could theoretically return to play if his Wednesday and Thursday tests yield negative results.
If Newton remains asymptomatic, and if he tests negative on Wednesday and Thursday, he could return to practice on Friday and play in Sunday's game against the Broncos. (The Patriots will work remotely on both Wednesday and Thursday out of an abundance of caution. No determination has been made yet on Friday's schedule.)
That is how the return-to-play protocols are written at the moment. I say "at the moment" because initially there was a five-day waiting period that all asymptomatic players had to adhere to before returning. That's no longer the case.
Two negative PCR tests. Twenty-four hours apart. That's it. Though it's important to note that any player's return needs NFL approval before becoming official.
If a player continues to test positive, he must sit out at least 10 days since his initial positive test. At that point, even if he continues to produce positive tests, he is eligible to return pending league approval.
If a player has symptoms, that's more complicated. Before he can return, he must sit out at least 10 days since COVID symptoms were reported, he must have no fever for 24 hours, and any other symptoms must have improved.
If a player has symptoms he's down for 10 days. At least.
If a player is asymptomatic? If, for instance, Newton and Gilmore continue to not feel the impact of the virus? All they need are two negative tests, back to back, one day apart.
How likely is it that either or both would be back in time for the Broncos on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium? Unclear.
But those are the rules. For now, at least.