- Covered Patriots since 1997
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty questioned Saturday whether COVID-19 protocols put into place by the NFL make player safety a top priority.
McCourty cited the Patriots’ trip to Kansas City on Monday as one example, as it came three days after quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive. McCourty, 33, said he was involved in conversations over the past week with the NFL Players Association, “trying to figure out who has our best interest in mind.
“I think outside of here, the people that don’t have to walk in our building — whether it is the league office, whether it is the NFLPA — they don’t care,” McCourty said. “For them, it is not about our best interest, or our health and safety, it is about, ‘What can we make protocol-wise that sounds good, looks good, and how can we go out there and play games?’ I think what I kind of learned personally throughout this situation is it is going to be up to us as individuals in this building to just really take care of one another.”
Head coach Bill Belichick said Saturday that it was his decision to close the team’s facility on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this past week, after cornerback Stephon Gilmore had tested positive on Tuesday. Gilmore, who’d had close contact with Newton, became the third Patriots player to be placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, along with Newton and practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray.
The Patriots reopened their facility Saturday and held their first practice of the week leading into Monday’s home game against the Denver Broncos (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET). The Patriots-Broncos game had originally been scheduled for Sunday.
Meanwhile, McCourty seemed perplexed that the NFL moved forward with last week’s game against the Chiefs on Oct. 5, pointing out that those who test positive for COVID-19 often don’t do so until multiple days after their initial exposure.
He said that was a big topic of discussion among players after Newton’s positive test on Oct. 2.
“If you get a chance to talk to the NFL or the NFLPA, I’d greatly appreciate you bringing up that point and letting them know. That’s something we talk about, and we are dealing with it. We’re moving forward and it’s obviously in the back of our mind,” McCourty said.
“That’s why we’re just trying to do everything we can — we’re distanced. Even today while we were in, we’re totally distanced, we all have masks on, we all have the Oakley shields on, and we have a mask on underneath our helmet. We weren’t in the building, really, at all today. So we’re doing the necessary things to stay as safe as possible.
“But without a doubt, that’s a thought — the same way you guys are sitting there thinking about it like, ‘Hey, they’re getting on a plane on Monday [to go to Kansas City], well, those days don’t really add up with the incubation period.’ That was the same question we were asking our union before we head out there.”
The Patriots took two planes to Kansas City — one filled with those who had close contact with Newton, the other with the rest of the team. They traveled the morning of the game and returned immediately after.
McCourty said along with his brother Devin and special-teams captain Matthew Slater, “we’re trying to continue to push the envelope and hold everyone accountable and make sure they have our best interest at heart.”
Meanwhile, he has decided to live in a hotel, away from his family.
“That was kind of a plan me and my wife [Melissa] talked about before the season even happened, but we’re living through a pandemic, so you can’t just assume, like, ‘Hey, we’re never going to have a positive test.’ [So] I will just isolate myself away, make sure I stay away until everything is clear and the virus runs its course and we’re all set before I went back into the house,” he said.
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