The Broncos’ game at New England has been moved from Sunday to Monday, the NFL announced Thursday. Kickoff at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., will be at 3:05 p.m. Denver time.
Moving the game became necessary after three Patriots players, including quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, tested positive for coronavirus in recent days. Newton missed last week’s game at Kansas City and the Patriots, following Gilmore’s positive test this week, canceled all in-person activities on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Broncos were informed of the game change around 4 p.m. Thursday, a source said.
The Broncos are expected to fly to the East Coast on Sunday and the game change means one fewer day of recovery and preparation for their Oct. 18 home game against Miami.
On Twitter, defensive end Shelby Harris said: “Why are we getting punished when we did nothing wrong(?) Pats go on a bye next week and we are stuck on a short week playing the Dolphins. Help it make sense.”
Harris’ point has merit. Just like Pittsburgh was penalized last week with an early-season bye because of the Tennessee Titans’ on-going COVID-19 outbreak, the Broncos are paying the price for the Patriots’ issues. The New England-to-Miami turnaround will be the Broncos’ third short work week of the season as they played on a Monday night in Week 1 and a Thursday night in Week 4.
Pushing the game ahead a day could also mean Newton is available to start for the Patriots. Earlier Thursday, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said moving the game back a day wouldn’t impact quarterback Drew Lock’s status. Lock has been a limited practice participant this week following a Week 2 right shoulder injury and it is expected Brett Rypien will start at quarterback.
The Patriots had their game last week at Kansas City moved from Sunday afternoon to Monday night and they lost 26-10.
The Broncos-Patriots game is the fourth to be impacted by coronavirus: Last week’s Pittsburgh-Tennessee game was postponed and the Patriots-Chiefs game was moved from Sunday to Monday. This week, the Buffalo-Tennessee game has been moved from Sunday to Tuesday. Next Thursday’s Kansas City-Buffalo game has been moved to Oct. 18.
While the Patriots have prepared this week virtually, the Broncos have been on the practice field three times and kept their normal schedule. Since daily testing began in late July, the Broncos have had only one positive COVID-19 test — fullback/tight end Andrew Beck on July 30.
Before practice Thursday, Fangio said the team “certainly” wanted to play Sunday.
“But we understand with COVID(-19), there is going to be improvising and adjusting that has to go on for everybody and this would be our turn to adjust if they change it, but we’ll be ready to go,” he said.