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Patriots back at work, day after 5th player tested positive

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The New England Patriots went back to work Saturday, one day after a fifth player tested positive for COVID-19 and one day before their twice-postponed game against Denver.

A Patriots spokesman said the team would proceed with its walkthrough, but all meetings would be virtual. There was no word on any Saturday testing.

The Broncos had coronavirus news of their own Saturday: Running backs coach Curtis Modkins has tested positive and won’t make the trip to New England. He is in isolation and has no symptoms.

The game against the Broncos, originally scheduled for Oct. 11 and then pushed back one day, was rescheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. after a fourth positive test.

The Patriots canceled practice Friday and later placed center James Ferentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Elsewhere, the Jacksonville Jaguars said Saturday that a practice-squad player tested positive. The team placed 12 players on the practice squad COVID-19 list, 11 of them because they have been in close proximity with the infected teammate.

It benefited Jacksonville that it separates practice-squad players from those on the 53-man roster, creating an extra level of protection to help prevent an outbreak.

The Jaguars also placed defensive end Josh Mauro on the regular COVID-19 list. He had been suspended the first five weeks of the regular season but rejoined the team Monday and spent the week with the practice squad.

Those on the list will need three negative tests to be removed. The Jaguars (1-4) are confident they will host Detroit (1-3) on Sunday as scheduled, even though they held football activities remotely Saturday as part of NFL safety protocols.

Also dealing with COVID issues in recent days: Atlanta, Indianapolis, Carolina and Baltimore.

The Colts had four positive tests that came up negative upon retesting. The Falcons returned to their facility one day after abandoning it because of a second positive.

New England already had the Week 5 matchup against Denver postponed following four earlier positive coronavirus tests by players, including quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Newton returned to practice this week for the first time since testing positive. Newton missed New England’s loss at Kansas City on Oct. 5 after his Oct. 2 positive test. He was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Gilmore, who tested positive Oct. 7, was activated from the list Thursday. Practice-squad player Bill Murray also returned from the COVID-19 list Thursday.

Defensive tackle Byron Cowart, who tested positive Oct. 11, was joined on the list by Ferentz.

The Broncos haven’t played since Oct. 1. If they play Sunday, they’ll have had 16 days between games, one day longer than Tennessee’s layoff before the Titans beat Buffalo on Tuesday night following the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak, which affected two dozen members of the organization.

Denver’s layoff is the longest in the league since 2001, when the NFL postponed all games on the weekend following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three teams — the Saints, Steelers and Buccaneers — had byes when play resumed a week later, so they all had 20 days between games that year. Of those three, only the Steelers won in their return to action.

Indianapolis closed its practice facility, then the four retests came back negative and the building reopened.

Browns star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was ill and sent home Thursday and not allowed to practice Friday, had his second negative test in 24 hours. That cleared him to play Sunday at Pittsburgh.

The Ravens placed defensive tackle Brandon Williams — a key figure in Baltimore’s run defense — on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The team isn’t saying if he tested positive or came in close contact with someone infected.

The Falcons left as scheduled in two planes for Sunday’s game at Minnesota. The team said defensive end John Cominsky was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and defensive line coaches Tosh Lupoi and Jess Simpson did not make the trip.

The Falcons have moved Edmond Robinson and defensive tackle Chris Slayton from the practice squad to the active roster as COVID-19 replacements.

Earlier this week, the team placed rookie defensive tackle Marlon Davidson on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Falcons had to shut their facility Thursday but reopened Friday after one nonplayer tested positive.

The Panthers placed guard/center Tyler Larsen on the reserve/COVID-19 list five days after he played against Atlanta.

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Mark Long, Arnie Stapleton and Dennis Waszak Jr., Sports Writers Jimmy Golen, Mike Marot, Steve Reed, George Henry and David Ginsburg and freelancer Gethin Coolbaugh contributed to this report.

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