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Hardly a few hours go by without more COVID-19 news surfacing around the NFL, and the New England Patriots are at the center of headlines for the second day in a row. After cancelling Friday’s practice because of an additional COVID case in their building, the Patriots on Saturday placed three different players on the COVID-19 reserve list: running back Sony Michel, left guard Shaq Mason and defensive end Derek Rivers.

“The NFL added a new ‘high risk’ close contact category to the protocols this week, and anyone in it must isolate for five days, thus landing on the list,” NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported. “My understanding is these moves are not all the result of new positive COVID-19 cases … The NFL was aware of the Patriots’ situation … and comfortable protocols have been followed. Sunday’s game against the Broncos — and all other games on the Week 6 slate — remain on as scheduled.”

In other words, Michel, Mason and Rivers landing on COVID-19 reserve doesn’t necessarily mean the Patriots have had three new positive COVID tests. From the start of the 2020 season, anyone assigned to the list — and removed from the active roster — could have either tested positive himself or simply been in contact with someone who’s contracted the virus.

Still, the losses are relatively significant for New England. Michel was already on injured reserve while recovering from a quad injury but could now face a prolonged road back to the active roster, where Damien Harris and others will be looking to claim more carries. Mason, meanwhile, was listed as questionable for Sunday’s Broncos game with an injury of his own and has been a stalwart of New England’s interior. Rivers, who’s appeared in all four games this year, has recorded 1.5 sacks as a rotational rusher.

As ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted, six different teams placed a combined nine players on the COVID-19 reserve list between Friday and Saturday.

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