Patriots rally around Belichick amid COVID-19 outbreak

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wears two masks as he watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs , Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Kansas City. The New England Patriots have canceled practice amid reports that a third player has tested positive for the coronavirus. Sports Illustrated reported that reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, and was added to the team's reserve/COVID-19 list. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots activated quarterback Cam Newton from the NFL's COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday.

Newton is expected to practice with the team on Thursday, which likely would lead to his starting on Sunday against Denver.

New England was 2-1 with Newton as its starter, then lost at Kansas City when he was sidelined after testing positive for the coronavirus. Newton had tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 2.

Three Patriots remain on the COVID-19 reserve list: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and practice squad DT Bill Murray. Gilmore was the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

New England players say they have found an ally in coach Bill Belichick amid growing local criticism of the NFL’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belichick’s approach to the virus outbreak within the walls of Gillette Stadium has earned him praise from those in the Patriots’ locker room as they navigate the stops and re-starts of this unusual NFL season.

“Bill has done a good job of (saying), ‘Hey, this is forever kind of changing, it’s very fluid,’” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “But once we get it, (he says) ‘This is what we’ve got, this is what we’re gonna do,’ and I think all of us have just kind of (fallen) in line.”

New England players returned to the team’s facilities on Wednesday for the first time since participating in a walk-through Saturday to prepare for their now twice-postponed game against Denver. After a fourth positive COVID-19 test last Sunday, the NFL rescheduled the game with the Broncos — originally set for Sunday, but bumped to Monday after a handful of positive tests last week — to this coming Sunday.