Patriots back at work, day after 5th player tested positive

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FILE – In this Sept. 13, 2020 file photo, fans walk through a parking lot with cones to social distance the cars before an NFL football game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts in Jacksonville, Fla. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the latest NFL team dealing with a positive COVID-19 test. The Jaguars released a statement Saturday, Oct. 17, saying a practice squad player was confirmed as testing positive for the coronavirus a day earlier. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)

The New England Patriots went back to work Saturday, one day after a fifth player on the team tested positive for COVID-19 and one day before their twice-postponed game against the Denver Broncos.

A Patriots spokesman said the team would proceed with its walkthrough, but all meetings would be virtual. The game against the Broncos, originally scheduled for Oct. 11 and then pushed back one day, was rescheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. after a fourth positive test.

The Patriots canceled practice Friday and later placed center James Ferentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Elsewhere, the Jacksonville Jaguars said Saturday that a practice squad player tested positive for the coronavirus. The initial result was confirmed by a second test Friday evening. The player was quarantined, and the team is reviewing contact tracing data to determine what further precautions need to be taken.

The Jaguars (1-4) host Detroit (1-3) on Sunday and plan to play as scheduled.

Jacksonville decided to hold football activities remotely Saturday as part of NFL protocols. It could benefit the team that it typically separates practice squad players from guys on the 53-man roster, creating an extra level of protection to help prevent an outbreak.

The Jaguars are the fourth NFL team to deal with COVID issues in recent days, joining Atlanta, Indianapolis and New England.

The Colts had four positive tests that came up negative upon retesting. The Falcons returned to their facility one day after abandoning it because of a second positive.

New England already had the Week 5 matchup against Denver postponed following four earlier positive coronavirus tests by players, including quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Newton returned to practice this week for the first time since testing positive for the virus. Newton missed New England’s loss at Kansas City on Oct. 5 after his Oct. 2 positive test. He was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Gilmore, who tested positive on Oct. 7, was activated from the list Thursday. Practice squad player Bill Murray also returned from the COVID-19 list Thursday.

Defensive tackle Byron Cowart, who tested positive on Oct. 11, was joined on the list by Ferentz.

The Broncos haven’t played since Oct. 1. If they play Sunday, they’ll have had 16 days between games, one day longer than Tennessee’s layoff before the Titans beat Buffalo on Tuesday night following the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak, which affected two dozen members of the organization.

Denver’s layoff is the longest in the league since 2001, when the NFL postponed all games on the weekend following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three teams — the Saints, Steelers and Buccaneers — had byes when play resumed a week later, so they all had 20 days between games that year. Of those three, only the Steelers won in their return to action.

Indianapolis closed its practice facility, then the four retests came back negative and the building reopened.

The Browns, who played the Colts on Sunday, had zero positive tests Friday morning and their building was open. The negatives included one for star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was ill and sent home Thursday and not allowed to practice Friday.

Atlanta resumed in-person work under more stringent safety measures. The Falcons play at Minnesota on Sunday.

Falcons rookie defensive tackle Marlon Davidson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday and a second person, who is not a player, subsequently tested positive.

The Panthers placed guard/center Tyler Larsen on the reserve/COVID-19 list five days after he played against Atlanta.

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