ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Even as a few Denver Broncos players have bristled publicly about facing the New England Patriots on Monday instead of Sunday, Broncos coach Vic Fangio closed the week with the message of “it’s on us” to be ready to play.
When the NFL announced the game would be moved to Monday due to concerns over COVID-19 that resulted in the closure of the Patriots’ facility for two days, Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris quickly took to social media, posting: “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 dolphins help it make sense.”
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
— Shelby Harris (@ShelbyHarris93) October 8, 2020
And reserve tackle Calvin Anderson posted: “Us: Follow protocols. Have no positive tests. Mitigate risks as a team. Result when opponent has multiple positive tests: Game is postponed and our team is forced into a short week the following game. Hmmm”
-Have no positive tests
-Mitigate risks as a team
Result when opponent has multiple positive tests:
-Game is postponed and our team is forced into a short week the following game.
— Calvin Anderson (@THE_CONDA25) October 9, 2020
In reality, while the Broncos will indeed now have a six-day week leading up to the Oct. 18 game against the Miami Dolphins, they will also have had an 11-day layoff between an Oct. 1 Thursday night win over the New York Jets and Monday’s game against the Patriots.
A six-day week is also common in the NFL in December each year when Saturday games are often on the schedule.
Fangio said Friday his message to the team was simply: These kinds of schedule adjustments are just part of the 2020 season.
“I think from the start of this season, all the way back to when training camp started, we all knew that the NFL would not go clean with no positive tests for the entire season,” Fangio said. “We knew there would be some positive tests, and those positive tests would cause some inconveniences and change of schedules and adjustments. And it just so happens now that we’re part of the adjustments. Because New England is our opponent this week; they’ve had some positive tests. So it’s on us to be able to adjust to that, improvise and be ready to play the game on Monday night, and I’m confident we will do that.”
Asked how he would handle the shorter week leading up to the Broncos’ game against the Dolphins, Fangio said it would be business as usual with a schedule the team would follow after any Monday night game.
“We’ll adjust to the Miami game week just like you always would when you come off a Monday night game,” Fangio said. “Obviously the players will have Tuesday off, and we’ll adjust our Wednesday because of the Monday game; and then we’ll be fine heading into Miami with our preparations there.”
One benefit for the Broncos heading into Monday’s game at New England is that the Broncos have practiced throughout this past week, while the Patriots closed their facility Wednesday and Thursday and conducted virtual meetings.
The one clear advantage the Patriots could gain by moving the game to Monday is the possible return of quarterback Cam Newton to the lineup. Newton would be 10 days removed from the positive test that placed him to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Newton did not play in the Patriots’ loss to the Chiefs this past Monday, and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore has also since been moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Gilmore is not expected to play against the Broncos, but if Newton has been asymptomatic over the past 10 days — the Patriots have not said whether or not he has been asymptomatic — he could play against the Broncos. Newton has not participated in any of the team’s practices, and it has been reported that Jarrett Stidham, who entered the loss to the Chiefs in relief of Brian Hoyer, will start against the Broncos if Newton doesn’t play.
Fangio said the Broncos have practiced as if Newton will play and are prepared for whichever quarterback is behind center.
“We’ve been under that assumption the whole time, that [Newton] would be playing, and then adjust if he’s not — just like Kansas City did last week when he got the late positive test in the week; just like you do what Pittsburgh had to do against us when Drew [Lock] got hurt in the second series of our game; just like you have to do every week, in case the starter doesn’t play for whatever reason,” Fangio said. “So yeah, we’re anticipating Newton playing, but we’ll be ready if he’s not the quarterback.”