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The Patriots saw two key faces return to the practice field on Thursday as both quarterback Cam Newton and corner Stephon Gilmore have been cleared off the reserve/COVID list after each of New England’s stars had previously tested positive with the virus. Their return to practice now paves the way for them to play on Sunday when the Patriots host the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. 

For Gilmore, that would result in zero games missed due to his positive COVID-19 test thanks to New England’s Week 5 game with Denver being postponed to Week 6. As for Newton, his absence looks to be stopped at just one game as his positive test came down prior to the Patriots Week 4 contest with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

With Newton sidelined, Brian Hoyer got the start at Arrowhead Stadium and it didn’t go so swimmingly for Bill Belichick’s club. Hoyer completed 15 of his 24 throws for 130 yards, an interception, and a fumble. The veteran also took a critical sack after seemingly forgetting the Patriots had used all of their timeouts, which forced the clock to hit zeros before New England could put up points prior to halftime. All of those struggles found Hoyer on the bench in the second half as second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham got some reps. After initially impressing with an opening touchdown drive, Stidham finished with 60 yards passing, that touchdown pass, and two interceptions in the 26-10 loss. 

Having Newton now back in the fold should bring some stability back under center for the Patriots as he was playing at a very high level prior to coming down with the virus. Through three starts, Newton has completed 68.1% of his passes, thrown for nearly 240 yards per game, and has rushed for 149 total yards and four touchdowns. 

“Well, we’ll have to see how it goes,” said Bill Belichick on Thursday when asked if Newton would receive his typical workload in practice upon his return. “We haven’t had an opportunity to do much here in the last 10 days or so. We’ve been on the field really one time. So, we’ll just have to see how things go here and that’s with everybody – it’s not specific to any individual player – but just in general, we’ve talked about kind of getting back into things and evaluating a little bit as we go. We’ve talked about that as a coaching staff and I think we’ve just got to have a good awareness and feel for practice and see where everybody is. Are they where they were the last time we practiced regularly or do we need to make a little bit of an adjustment there? So, we’ll just have to see.”

Along with Newton and Gilmore, the Patriots also had practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray, who also turned in a positive COVID-19 test, back at practice Thursday. 

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