The New England Patriots canceled practice Friday after a member of the organization tested positive for COVID-19, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team and the NFL did not announce the positive test, did not reveal if it involved a player or a coach. The NFL Network reported that James Ferentz, an offensive lineman who started at center in New England’s last game against the Chiefs, will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

New England (2-2) already has had its matchup against Denver at Gillette Stadium postponed twice following four positive coronavirus tests by players, including quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The game is scheduled for Sunday.

“I don’t really know the answer to that,” Broncos Coach Vic Fangio said when asked about finally playing the Patriots. “We’re under the assumption and understanding that this game’s going to go off on time. And anything that happens otherwise will happen when it happens.”

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

Defensive tackle Byron Cowart was the only Patriots player still on the list after testing positive on Oct. 11.


Newton and Gilmore participated in Thursday’s practice and appeared to be on track to play against the Broncos. Asked on Friday how Newton looked in his first practice back, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the 2015 NFL MVP looked “normal, normal.”

“It’s good to have him back,” McDaniels said.

The Broncos (1-3) haven’t played since Oct. 1. So 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.

The Patriots haven’t played since Oct. 5, when they lost at Kansas City.

The Broncos’ layoff is the longest in the league since 2001, when the NFL postponed all games the weekend following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three teams – Saints, Steelers, Buccaneers – had byes when play resumed a week later, so they all had 20 days between games that year.

Of those three teams, only the Steelers won in their return to action.


ON TOP of their COVID-19 issues, the Patriots have a number of injury problems.

Friday’s injury report listed multiple starters as questionable, including wide receiver Julian Edelman, left tackle Isaiah Wynn and right guard Shaq Mason. Defensive tackle Adam Butler is also questionable.

While Edelman’s lingering injury issues remain a concern, the Patriots have a major issue at offensive line. Starting center David Andrews is on injured reserve, and with Ferentz also now unavailable, left guard Joe Thuney may have to move to center, like he did three weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders.

The Patriots have gotten solid contribution from rookies Mike Onwenu and Justin Herron, who have stepped into multiple holes, and both could be needed in the starting lineup.

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