Who know what? And when did they know it?
Before you say “Watergate?” or “FBI and fake Russian dossier?” you aren’t even close.
This is the NFL and COVID-gate.
The New England Patriots have become front and center Exhibit A in the pro sports attempt to make life normal. And, well, make a billion dollars.
The Tennessee Titans’ debacle, which started out “innocently,” with a few players testing positive and passing on to teammates. But now we’re hearing about private practices not allowed by the NFL, due to team outbreak.
The Patriots are in a different category.
Not only did their two best players – Cam Newton (Thursday) and Stephon Gilmore (Tuesday night), both asymptomatic – test positive, but the team was forced by the NFL to fly to Kansas City on Monday morning, the day of the game, with the possibility the plane was loaded with several Patriots employees carrying the virus without knowing it.
Did you see the photo of Gilmore after the game, whispering in the ear of the Patrick Mahomes, the face of the NFL?
The Patriots game with Denver at Foxboro on Sunday is in limbo.
The NFL offices in Manhattan are loaded with people crossing their fingers on Patriots and Chiefs employees remaining negative through the end of the week.
The vast majority of doctors on social media stated the Patriots-Chiefs game should have been rescheduled, that it was too soon to know if Patriots employees traveling to Kansas City were “carriers” of the virus.
What about the NFL doctors?
Unlike the Titans-Steelers game, which was postponed until Week 7 and easy to change (because of bye weeks and ability to move Steelers-Ravens game), the Patriots-Chiefs game, if rescheduled, would have caused scheduling nightmares, adding a week to the NFL season or cancellation.
But guess what? Cancelling one of the marquee games of the early 2020 season – Pats-Chiefs and Belichick vs. Mahomes –wasn’t going to happen without more positive tests.
The only ideal cure to these potential problems, which include 125 team personnel for each of the 16 traveling teams, is the same kind of bubble the NFL and NBA had.
The only problem is an NFL season is five months long, six counting the playoffs. The NBA and NHL was more of a three-month excursion, which was tough enough for the last few teams.
That’s a lot to ask.
So instead we get this – hurdles, road blocks, postponements and, probably at some point, cancellations.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was supposed to speak to the media today, but he cancelled, which was probably the right choice.
There is nothing he could (or would) say without knowing what the NFL is deciding, as we speak.
Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, issued a statement via Twitter and Instagram, noting fans should take the coronavirus “seriously” and that he followed the protocols by the book yet still tested positive:
"Thank you to everyone who has reached out since hearing about my positive COVID-19 test. Your messages aren’t unseen and are greatly appreciated. I’m currently asymptomatic and will take this as it comes. I don’t know what to expect, but my spirit is high because of God. I’ve followed every protocol, yet it happened to me. Please be sure to take this seriously.
The Gilly Lock is going to sit down until the medical professionals let me know it’s best to continue normal activity. Your well wishes and prayers mean the world to me and my family."
As for Gilmore being shown talking in Mahomes ear on the field after the Monday night game, probably six inches from his face, I don’t think that’s following the protocol.
Gilmore might not miss anything, though, as the Patriots-Broncos game is on the chopping block awaiting more results.
The Patriots will not be allowed back to the facility at 1 Patriot Place until Friday.
What a season.
And the football's been pretty interesting, too.
You can follow Bill Burt on Twitter at @burttalkssports or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.