KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Patriots will fly here and face the Chiefs on Monday night pending another round of preflight negative COVID-19 tests Monday morning, a league source confirmed Sunday.
The rescheduled plan, made necessary when Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and Kansas City QB Jordan Ta’amu tested positive for coronavirus late Friday, is contingent on the all the Chiefs testing negative as well.
The Patriots-Chiefs game will start at 7:05 and be broadcast nationally on CBS. The regularly scheduled Monday night game between the Falcons and Packers was pushed back 35 minutes to 8:50 p.m.
The Patriots players and staff all returned negative tests Sunday morning, just as they had on Saturday. The Chiefs also had zero positive tests Saturday and Sunday.
In confirming the updated schedule, the NFL said in a statement, "The clubs also worked closely with the NFL and NFLPA and infectious disease experts to conduct contact tracing and post-COVID protocols are now in effect for both teams.''
According to a report on Pro Football Talk, the Patriots plan to take two planes to Kansas City, with 20 players who had close contact with Newton on a separate plane. The club did this last season on its trip to Houston when 17 players were listed as questionable when a flu bug swept through the locker room.
Newton took to Instagram Sunday for his first comments since becoming the most high-profile NFL player to test positive.
"I will never question God’s reasoning, just will always respond with, yes Lord,'' he captioned a photo of himself. "I appreciate all the love, support, and well wishes. I will take this time to get healthy and self reflect on the other amazing things that I should be grateful for.''
It’s unknown if Newton is suffering from symptoms, which will determine how long he’ll be on the COVID-19 injured reserve list, but Fox Sports reported he is asymptomatic.
Under NFL protocols, if Newton is asymptomatic, he can return after five days if he returns two consecutive negative results at least 24 hours apart. Under this scenario, Newton could conceivably return for Sunday’s home game against the Broncos.
If Newton shows symptoms of the virus, he can only come back to the club after waiting 10 days following at least 72 hours since he last felt ill.
New England’s bye week comes after the Denver game, so it’s possible Newton could be held out until the club hosts the 49ers on Oct. 25.
With Newton sidelined, the Patriots will look to 12-year veteran Brian Hoyer, who has 39 career starts, including one in the playoffs. His most recent start came last season for the Colts. Hoyer is 16-23 overall.
Hoyer’s skillset is vastly different from Newton — he is more of a classic dropback passer — though he has an expansive knowledge of Josh McDaniels’s offense. This is Hoyer’s third tour of duty and sixth season in New England, where he started his career as an undrafted free agent in 2009.
Hoyer threw the ball very well in camp as he competed with and mentored Newton and Jarrett Stidham. He was the backup for the first three weeks of the season.
Stidham will serve as the backup. Once thought to be Tom Brady’s heir apparent, a hip injury combined with a truncated training camp and no preseason games derailed Stidham’s summer. Stidham has been inactive for all three games but has been plenty busy during pregame warmups, running drills with Julian Edelman and some of the other receivers.
Quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch noted the close bond Newton, Hoyer, and Stidham have developed over the last two months.
"They’ve done a great job of really helping one another. I think when you compete with one another, there’s this perception outside that you have three individual parties really just only worrying about themselves,'' said Fisch. "It’s the furthest thing from that. Really what each one of those guys did was help the other one get better. Cam has had tremendous experience of playing defenses and starting in the NFL. He’s been able to bring that experience to Brian’s experience, not just playing, but being a part of this system. Then obviously Jarett, his year that he’s had here with Tom and they really all help one another and continue to help one another. It’s pretty cool to watch.''
The Patriots likely will lean heavily on a rushing attack that is coming off a 250-yard performance in a victory over the Raiders. The Chiefs have had trouble stopping the run, allowing 153 yards per game.
Sony Michel, who has been bothered by a quadriceps injury, led the Patriots with 117 yards, followed by Rex Burkhead (49) and J.J. Taylor (43) in the win over the Raiders. In addition, the Patriots could get Damien Harris, who had the strongest camp of the bunch before suffering a thumb ailment, back from injured reserve.