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Cam Newton Tests Positive for COVID; Chiefs-Patriots Postponed to Monday

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 and is out for this week's game with Kansas City. The league has postponed the game indefinitely. It is likely to be played Tuesday but additional positive tests would probably postpone it further. Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, who played the role of Newton in practices this week, has also tested positive.

UPDATE: With no other players testing positive, the Patriots-Chiefs game has been set for 7:05pm Eastern on Monday night.

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44 comments, Last at 08 Oct 2020, 5:29pm

2 They should stop, regroup,…

They should stop, regroup, bubble up East-West-North-South teams on 4 different locations and run a shortened schedule (2x divisional games, 1x out of division game, total games: 10+2 already made).

Then some weird formula for the playoffs.



6 The fact that they didn't do…

The fact that they didn't do this at the beginning is ridiculous. It covers 10/16ths of the season in 4 bubbles. Or at least they should have schedule-shuffled things such that the 6 games *not* covered by this came first, so if they were forced to go into a bubble, more of the season was already covered.

14 Also, much less contact…

Also, much less contact/exposure between teams in baseball. How many Vikings end up with COVID from the DL on the Titans? He played 70% of the defensive snaps, that's a lot of quality time with the OL. Hopefully he wasn't contagious at the time of the game.

3 This is really starting to…

This is really starting to feel like a house of cards collapsing.

Not sure what the right move is at this point, but I really hope the league can trace these infections back. Without knowing how players are getting infected, limiting future infections is a lot tougher.


4 Chiefs practice squad…

Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, who played the role of Newton in practices this week, has also tested positive.


Now that's some dedication to playing the role!

7 There's actually no evidence…

There's actually no evidence of that, if you think about it. The Titans outbreak is up to what, 16? And no one on the Vikings was infected.

It doesn't look like playing football is actually that contagious (which actually isn't that surprising, given that it's open air) - looks more like the facilities are the problem. I'm actually surprised more teams didn't move everything outdoors, now that I think about it.

10 I am not an epidemiologist…

I am not an epidemiologist nor do I play one on TV. However, it is interesting that whenever the shelter in place rules are relaxed, the covid cases spike back up again. I can't imagine its all occurring from in door contact.  

11 Seriously.    The idea that…



The idea that 3 weeks into the season we can make conclusions about the lack of transmission during games - for a disease that has an incubation time up to weeks - is absurd. 

It spreads via saliva and aerosolized particles - if people don't think two lineman slamming their helmets together while breathing heavy 60+ times a game is a high transmission environment, I can only assume there's some significant motivated reasoning going on. 


28 It's open air, and not…

It's open air, and not actually that crowded for very long. Sure, there was probably exposure, but it's easy to believe that it wouldn't be enough to cause an infection. It's not crazy. At this point what, 5-10% of the Titans have tested positive, so it's at least fair to say that the game itself isn't *far riskier* than whatever the Titans were doing at their facility.

39 From we think we know right…

From we think we know right now, it takes some amount of time together...or a high-transmission event like someone sneezing directly into your fucking face. While a lot of positions in football are low on the "someone basically sneezing in your face" and other contact is quick...your point about linemen is 100% valid. That seems like absolutely the most likely route for in-game transmission to happen. 

40 Note that an extended period…

Note that an extended period of TIME isn't required. It's not like some threshold that has to be overcome. The probability of infection is linearly proportional to virus exposure, which is again linearly proportional to exposure time in the case of a constantly emitting (shedding) source. Total probability of infection as a function of time thus becomes an exponential saturation function (1 - exp(-k*t)). For small time intervals (small defined as small probability of transmission), the probability is linear in time (double the time, double the risk of being infected).

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty modeling details with shedding rates etc,  the link below is a decent place to start:


Anyway, all this is simply to say that no small unit of exposure time is "safe". The 15 minutes is what the CDC refers to as an "operational definition" to make it practical to perform contact tracing and risk assessment in the real world. The WHO and European CDC use the same definition for contact tracing, but you'll find that their papers also note the arbitrary nature of the 15 minute value. E.g.:


Several acts are known to increase the amount of virus a person emits, including talking, shouting, sweating, etc. - so why the NFL has decided to stick with the general 15 minutes is somewhat surprising.

While I'm at it... The distance of 6 feet / 2 meters (or even half that, which is sometimes used) is similarly arbitrary, although the exposure amount is strongly non-linear with distance. However, this distance was chosen based on a "free air model", not a closed space like a training facility with circulated air, heavy breathing, sweating, etc. I'm frankly shocked the NFL has chosen to stick with the general "open air" distance of 6 feet.

If we're ever given insight into the tracking data the NFL has (not likely, but perhaps some researchers will at some point), it would be extremely interesting to see how the virus is transmitted in such a setting. Hopefully, the NFL is already crunching the data from the Titans outbreak and adjusting their "close contact" definitions accordingly.

41 And we can see how absurd it…

And we can see how absurd it was, as now, less than 36 hours after the Patriots/Chiefs game, two more Patriots (plus another two Titans and a Raider, FWIW) have tested positive, one of whom was on the field for every defensive play.

We'll see how many more Patriots and Chiefs test positive over the next three/four days, but I have a feeling that it's going to be a Titans-like spreading.

We shouldn't be that surprised, I guess.  NFL players and staff members are a subset of humans, and we know there's a non-trivial percentage of humans who don't take Covid seriously.  Why would we expect the NFL to?

I was pleasantly surprised that the NFL was able to start a season and play for a few weeks incident-free, but I'm not confident they'll be able to complete it.

42 F*ck Not that I'm surprised,…


Not that I'm surprised, but I was really, really hoping this wouldn't happen.

As stated above, I never understood allowing the Patriots to play just a few days after someone tested positive.

At this point, maybe isolating your team into small groups, cells, might be the only way forward. As little contact between cells as possible and I'm not taking about the NFL's "close contact" definition here. Have a mandated rule that if any member of a cell tests positive, that cell is out for a week regardless of negative tests. 

It'll mess up preparation and would have to be managed league wide, but it would allow games to continue after a positive test, which the current set of precautions just doesn't (safely) enable.

43 Yeah, I thought Monday…

Yeah, I thought Monday evening was just a shade too early. If they had done more frequent testing, I would've said Tuesday evening might've been a reasonable compromise, and Gilmore might've been caught by that. Obviously even Tuesday was aggressive, but in some sense I could understand them accepting the risk on that.

I still think it's unlikely that the Patriots situation will turn into a large outbreak, though. Seems much more likely that it'll just be a slow simmer. The Titans situation makes much more sense if they did continue to congregate.

15 It's too early to know that…

It's too early to know that. The advice is to quarantine for 10-14 days when you are exposed to someone with the virus, it can take 5 to 10 days to test positive. If a Viking picked up on the virus on Sunday, he might have had enough virus in his system by Friday to test positive in which case we would hear about it today. But it's just as likely it might be next Tuesday before the guy tests positive.

27 It's not too early to know…

It's not too early to know that a game isn't significantly *more* dangerous than going to the facilities. Yes, it can take time to test positive, but when you've got 50+ people who test negative consistently for 7 days afterwards, it's safe to say that a game doesn't *automatically* guarantee infection of the other team.

That's the point. It's easy to *think* that breathing hard and smashing into people is risky, but transmission isn't a one-time thing. Spending time indoors with poor circulation in crowded rooms is likely to be way riskier.

32 It being a whole new set of…

It being a whole new set of people means it adds risk, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's more dangerous than being indoors in closer contact with others, unless everyone in the facilities is in a bubble (which is not true for the NFL, even if they are more isolated than the general public).

34 Uh, no. Not at all. Repeated…

Uh, no. Not at all. Repeated, prolonged exposure to the same people (not in an actual bubble) is way more dangerous than temporary limited exposure to new people. You know this, intuitively - you're most likely to get coronavirus from someone in your family. Sure, one person in the family has to get it from outside - but once that person does, everyone else gets it from that person. So if everyone's going out and about equally, statistically, your biggest risk is at home.

Virus infections are statistical. By far, most of the time, the virus just lands on you, doesn't find its way into a cell, and breaks apart. You really need repeated exposure to have a high chance of transmission.

If the NFL was in a hard bubble, like the NBA, games between bubbles would be the most dangerous part, sure. But they aren't in one. Which means that unless the games are significantly more transmissive (they aren't), the most dangerous events are still going to be activities at the actual training/practice facility, where you encounter the same people, over and over.

13 Playing Monday or Tuesday

How in the name of Olympus can they play the game Monday or Tuesday when the chance of a false negative is 67% a full four days after exposure? Do players receive better tests than we mere mortals (bad pun intended)?

36 +1

This is correct.

I'd like to add what the poster probably meant the opposite of. They probably shouldn't care; If players thought it wasn't worth the risk they had every opportunity to opt out. For both the players &  league the rational choice is to take this risk in a measured way because the opportunity cost of not doing that is astronomical. Most of these guys will only get 1-2 years worth of an opportunity like this in their life - if you think that's not worth taking the kind of risk implied in COVID-19 for a 20 year old in good health your probably doing life wrong.

33 So, test results from the…

So, test results from the standard tests taken Sunday (for the 6 teams for whom it wasn't gameday) are in: Zero positive tests.

The Patriots are going to travel to Kansas City on two planes: One with everybody who had close contact with Cam Newton (about 20 players) and one with everybody else.

This decision just highlights the illogical nature of playing that game, IMHO. *A LOT* of players and personnel had close contact with a known positive player Friday, yet because none of them tested positive (YET) 48 hours later, they are going ahead with the game.

I like the decision to go ahead with the Vikings game much better. That's a whole week of testing negative after known contact, not just 48 hours.

If 48 hours is acceptable, then why did the Titans game get postponed until later in the season? Last time anyone on that team had close contact with a known infected individual was Monday and even if there HAD been contact afterwards, the Patriots decision would seem to indicate that 48 hours with no positive tests is enough and that might still be possible by playing the game Tuesday (if the results of Monday's tests (available Tuesday morning) are also negative).

I really think the league needs to be open about this and simply come out and say just exactly how many days after exposure is enough to qualify as "definitely not infected" (to whatever degree of "definitely" the league is comfortable with).

35 I don't know why the…

I don't know why the reporting on this is so bad...

They're not worried about Cam infecting others. That's just an unavoidable risk, and it's also not that high - you're not exactly crazy-infectious if you're asymptomatic and only just tested positive. You quarantine Cam to get him away from players when he's most infectious, which will be a few days later when he is symptomatic.

They're worried about other players also having been infected by an unknown source, and therefore spreading the virus before being quarantined. Imagine if the linebackers coach for the Titans hadn't tested positive, and suddenly like, 4 Titans players/employees test positive out of the blue. That's the worry.

37 That doesn't jive with the…

That doesn't jive with the current explanation of the Titans situation where the belief is that the virus was introduced by newly introduced player (Mabil) who had tested negative over multiple days before testing positive on 23/24 Sep. In that sense, he is just like Cam - testing negative for multiple days until testing positive.

The team facilities were shut down and contact eliminated on Tuesday, 29 Sep. However, two players tested positive during the Saturday round of testing (with results available Sunday) - a full 4 days after last contact with a known infected individual, after testing negative every single day leading up to that.

So why is Cam's 2 days perfectly fine when the Titans had positive tests pop up 4 days after last exposure?

38 "is that the virus was…

"is that the virus was introduced by newly introduced player (Mabil)"

I'm guessing you mean Greg Mabin.

"In that sense, he is just like Cam - testing negative for multiple days until testing positive."

Not quite: Cam was continually with the team prior to that, whereas Mabin wasn't. The first Titan other than Mabin tested positive 2 days after Mabin did, then more at 4, and most at 5. So in fact the close timing between Mabin and the linebackers coach testing positive actually might suggest that it wasn't just Mabin (or there was a large spreading event caused by him pretty much right away) otherwise you'd expect the growth to be slower.

I mean, Mabin's a practice squad CB. It's not like he should've been spending tons of time around everyone, so I could understand the NFL being worried that something else happened there.

I do think the Monday game (which is 3 days post) is a bit too early, but if there wouldn't be any positive tests through Tuesday evening, for instance, I'd say the risk of a large exposure event (like the Titans) would probably be small.

A lot of it really just depends on the details of the contact tracing, which we don't know. The fact that the NFL's looking into what happened in Tennessee might imply that the information the Titans gave to the NFL might've made them really worried.

17 Testing info...

What's the testing schedule for the players?  I've heard it's daily except Sundays.  What's the test type that the NFL uses?  Is it the quick results test that's less effective or one of the more reliable one's that takes longer for the results?

19 I keep thinking that a 12…

I keep thinking that a 12 week schedule would have worked better. Six conference games, six nonconference, 3 two-week byes for all teams to deal with this very problem. But money always comes first with the league.

26 The NFL's primary driver is…

The NFL's primary driver is making money not sporting fairness. Therefore they said "we'll play a 16-game regular season" hoping it would be the case.  Recognising that some games would get lost to Covid cancellation and hoping to slot them into bye weeks or count as a tie.

My current theory is they'll have an expanded playoffs, if games start to fall by wayside.  Maybe finish a week or two early.  But have 20-24 teams involved to allow for teams that miss crucial games (aka more TV revenue). Give 4-8 division winners (based on pct) a bye following a round of 16.

22 Saints' turn now?

Saints FB Burton finds out he's positive after he and the team arrived in Detroit.


"Shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention level!  Shut them all down!"


25 The test that most hospitals…

The test that most hospitals use generates a lot of false negatives, but very few false positives.  Don’t know the details of the test the NFL is using (it makes sense they would prefer a test that doesn’t miss cases at the cost generating more false positives), but it all still sounds pretty shady.

29 Pausing the season makes no…

Pausing the season makes no sense. Look at all the teams that have zero positive tests and haven't played teams with positive tests. Why would you want to *pause* those games? What are you hoping to accomplish during a *pause*?

If you wanted to be completely paranoid, you could shut down any team with single positive test until stringent criteria were met. That would almost certainly require an extension to the season, which would likely also feature less than 16 games per team. It's not trivial to change the schedule completely at this point, but that's probably the only way to do it and keep it reasonably "fair".

I wouldn't personally go that far at this point (although I would have cut the two standings-dependent conference games for each team before the season just to have some added flexibility).