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Will Broncos play Sunday? Doubt surfaces after Patriots' positive test

Broncos preparing, for now, to play rescheduled game
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Posted at 11:55 AM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 18:19:35-04

ENGLEWOOD -- That status of the Broncos-Patriots game on Sunday remains the same, though uncertainty lingers after an additional New England player tested positive for COVID-19.

As of 1 p.m. MDT Friday, an NFL league official told Denver7, "No change."

The Broncos practiced as scheduled Friday morning. Quarterback Drew Lock will start if healthy, and he looked good throwing passes Friday. Running back Melvin Gordon's availability remains in question after he was sent home Friday with an illness that is not related to COVID. He is undergoing medical treatment, and his status will be determined Saturday. Jeremy Cox will be promoted from the practice squad if Gordon is not cleared.

Will Broncos play Sunday? Doubt surfaces after Patriots' positive test

The Broncos want to play at 11 a.m. Sunday, and would like a resolution by Saturday morning before they board a plane. They had three games rescheduled last week, lost their original bye and would be idle 24 days between games if this Sunday's contest is moved to Week 18. Fangio has preached the importance of being able to adjust. But has this tested his patience?

"No. We are getting good at. Our players have been fantastic with this stuff," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said after Friday's workout. "We are under the assumption and understanding that the game will go off on time. I told the players there was a report of another positive test. We are to press forward as if we are playing Sunday until told officially otherwise."

The Patriots shuttered Friday's practice after a positive test by a player. Former Broncos backup and current Patriots center James "Brick" Ferentz will be placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, per ESPN. Ferentz practiced on Thursday. Friday's test results will likely determine if the game is played.

Broncos fans reacted on social media, with many calling for a Patriots forfeit. That is a layered decision. If the players don't play, they are not paid, so incentive remains to find a spot for the game. Also, the league would face returning TV money for the canceled game, something it has never shown a willingness to do.

Simply put, fairness is not easy during a pandemic. However, it seems some consideration should be made regarding the Broncos' inconvenience without a positive test. As for Fangio, he continues to see this through a wider lens.

"I know a lot of people who have had their lives interrupted in a negative way either through illness or a lost job," said Fangio, whose daugther, a military nurse in San Antonio, had COVID-19. " And some small businesses I know from places I have been across the country are really struggling. In the big picture, I think that we have been lucky (in the NFL)."

If the game is moved to Tuesday -- which will be difficult if a second Patriots test returns positive -- that would leave the Broncos preparing on a short week against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. So, could that game be moved to Monday? Perhaps.

If Sunday's game is postponed it represents a new challenge for the NFL. The Patriots and Broncos both had their bye weeks filled, so there is no flexibility remaining in their schedules. The Broncos were supposed to play the Patriots last Sunday. With the game moved, Denver now plays the Chargers during Week 8, their original bye week, and the Dolphins, the previous opponent this week, on Nov. 22.