New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore has tested positive for COVID-19, a source confirmed to the Herald, causing the team to cancel practice Wednesday and Thursday.
Pending further test results, the Pats will work remotely until at least Friday in preparation for their upcoming home game against the Broncos. Kickoff remains set for Sunday at 4:25 p.m. Gilmore’s test could mark the beginning of a breakout within the organization, as he became the third Patriot to land on the COVID-19 reserve list in the past five days.
Quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for the virus late last week, and rookie defensive lineman Bill Murray was placed on the reserve list Tuesday. It is unknown if Murray tested positive or simply came in contact with someone who has. Both reasons can land a player on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Gilmore tweeted Wednesday afternoon he is currently asymptomatic, which could allow him to play against Denver.
“I don’t know what to expect, but my spirit is high because of God. I’ve followed every protocol, yet it happened to me. Please be sure to take this seriously,” he wrote. “The Gilly Lock is going to sit down until the medical professionals let me know it’s best to continue normal activity. Your well wishes and prayers mean the world to me and my family.”
If Gilmore continues to display no symptoms and can produce two consecutive negative PCR tests separated by 24 hours, he may receive permission to play from a team physician. If he is symptomatic, he cannot be activated from the reserve list until at least 10 days have passed since those symptoms first appeared. The same holds true for Newton and Murray.
According to reports, Gilmore was among roughly 20 Pats players and staffers who came in close contact with Newton last week. Those personnel traveled on a separate plane to and from Kansas City for a game the NFL opted to postpone just 27 hours from its original kickoff time once Newton’s positive test was discovered.
The incubation period for COVID-19 is typically four or five days, meaning the league chose to play the game without first verifying Newton hadn’t spread the virus to any of his teammates or coaches. The timing of Gilmore’s positive test would indicate infection occurred sometime within 24 hours of Newton’s positive test.
On Wednesday, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills explained why the league pushed ahead in Kansas City during an appearance on the NFL Network. Sills said the league conducted contact tracing, studied video footage of Newton inside the facility and tested the team extensively in the 72 hours before kickoff. According to Sills, the Patriots were highly compliant with the NFL’s protocols, and no personnel experienced “high-risk close contact” with Newton.
“Cam Newton was wearing a mask, he was wearing his tracking device and everyone around him was wearing a mask. So, that gave us some comfort that, given the facts of no additional positive tests, given the apparent compliance of the team and given the way that the close contacts were labeled, that we could move forward,” Sills said. “This isn’t a decision we make in isolation.
“We take that data, we look at it with our experts in infectious disease and epidemiology and make what we think is the safest decision for everyone involved.”
It is unknown how Gilmore’s test might otherwise affect Sunday’s game. Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday he has not heard from the league about any change of plans.
He also expressed utmost confidence that the NFL and NFL Players Association would work together to keep all players, coaches and staffers safe in Foxborough, Mass.
“We’re just confident here that the league, along with the players union, is going to handle everything correctly.” Fangio said. “But nothing has been done or said (to me) in any way other than plan as normal.”
Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has allowed a single catch in coverage each of the past two games. He’s recorded one interception and 11 tackles for the season. The two-time All-Pro has taken 98% of the team’s defensive snaps this year, including every play against the Chiefs.
That night, Gilmore was in close contact with several teammates on the sideline and during game play. He also shared a post-game embrace with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs’ captain later called it a mental lapse, explaining he was only “trying to show respect for a great football player.”
No other Patriot is known to have tested positive since late Tuesday night, despite sharing space in a cramped locker room, bus and airplane with Gilmore during the Kansas City trip.
Without him, the Pats are left with Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant in their cornerbacks room. If Gilmore is ruled out, the team could also promote defensive backs Michael Jackson or D’Angelo Ross from its practice squad.