The Patriots will host the Broncos as scheduled (or, more accurately, rescheduled) Sunday at 1 p.m., a league source confirmed, barring any late changes, which is always a possibility during a season of last-minute twists and turns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The club conducted a walkthrough at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, which is normal operating procedure on the day before a game, and then held virtual meetings Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the club placed three more players on the COVID-19 reserve list: Running back Sony Michel, who was already on injured reserve, guard Shaq Mason, and defensive end Derek Rivers.
According to The Athletic, Michel tested positive, while Mason and Rivers did not. Under new NFL protocols, those who have been deemed to have high-risk close contact with someone who has tested positive must isolate for five days — and be symptom free —before they can return.
The Broncos flew to New England without running backs coach Curtis Modkins, who tested positive for COVID-19. The team became aware of Modkins’s result early Saturday. According to a statement released by the Broncos, Modkins is self-quarantining and has not suffered any of the symptoms associated with the coronavirus.
Patriots players who were in the facility Friday were sent home after offensive lineman James Ferentz was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list after returning a positive test.
Cam Newton, Stephon Gilmore, and Bill Murray have been removed from the list. Byron Cowart remains there.
The facility underwent a deep cleaning and sanitizing overnight before players came back for testing and the walkthrough Saturday.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke before Friday’s practice was canceled and said adjusting on the fly is a way of life this season and he applauded how Bill Belichick has guided the franchise through the unpredictability brought on by the pandemic.
“I think honestly this is adaptability at its finest and really focusing on the things that you can control,” McDaniels said. “There are certainly a lot of things right now, a lot of factors and variables that are outside of our control. I know the things that we can focus on and control are our own actions, the way that we use the protocols properly to make sure that we keep ourselves safe, our families safe, and each other safe.
"I don’t know if there’s a manual a coach is going to be able to write about handling the medical part of this. I just know that down the road, you know, certainly there’s been a number of coaches that have demonstrated great ability to adjust, to adapt, and really the great coaches that I know — and certainly we’re following Bill [Belichick]'s lead because he’s doing a tremendous job of it — is just keeping us on the things that we can do and the action points that we need to really adhere to and the way that we need to behave.”
The Patriots have only been on the practice field three times in the lead up to this game, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 11 before being pushed back a day, then a week.
New England held a light practice Oct. 10, returned for a full-pads session Thursday, and then held their Saturday walkthrough.
Newton, the first Patriot to test positive on Oct. 2, and Gilmore, who returned a positive test Oct. 7, participated fully Thursday and are on track to start Sunday.
Because most of the preparations for this game have been done virtually, quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch doesn’t think Newton will need to knock off much rust.
"He’s done a great job of trying to understand everything that Denver brings, which is going to be a great challenge,'' Fisch said. "I’ve worked with Vic Fangio for seven years, so we’ve spent a lot of time trying to prepare for Denver and I think that if/when the game occurs on Sunday, we’ll have a great opportunity to go out there and play our best game.''
With Ferentz and Mason out, and David Andrews (thumb) still on injured reserve, there will be another reshuffling along the offensive line.
It’s likely Joe Thuney will move from left guard to center as he did in Week 3 against the Raiders. Rookie Mike Onwenu will play one of the other guard spots — he’s shown remarkable versatility this season, having started at jumbo tight end, left guard, and right guard. Hjalte Froholdt is a best guess to start at the other interior spot.
The Patriots elevated offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch from the practice squad to provide depth.
In addition, receiver Isaiah Zuber, and defensive linemen Nick Thurman and Rashod Berry also were moved up as COVID-19 replacements.
Like the Patriots, the Broncos will get their starting quarterback back Sunday after Drew Lock missed time with a right shoulder injury suffered in Week 2. He was a full participant in practice and Fangio said he was "trending in the right direction.''
Lock will be without a lot of his weapons, however, with running back Melvin Gordon and tight end Noah Fant downgraded to out before the team left Colorado.
Gordon, who was cited for DUI last Tuesday, has a non-COVID-19 illness, while Fant is battling a balky ankle.
Ben Volin of the Globe staff contributed to this report.