Patriots-Chiefs Game Postponed After Positive Coronavirus Tests on Both Teams

Cam Newton was reportedly among those who tested positive. Sunday’s game will be rescheduled to Monday or Tuesday, the N.F.L. said.

The N.F.L. has postponed Sunday’s highly anticipated game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs to Monday or Tuesday after Cam Newton, the Patriots’ star quarterback, and the practice squad quarterback on the Chiefs tested positive for the coronavirus.

“In consultation with infectious disease experts, both clubs are working closely with the N.F.L. and the N.F.L.P.A. to evaluate multiple close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments,” the league said in a statement. “All decisions will be made with the health and safety of players, team and game day personnel as our primary consideration.”

The delay of one of the marquee matchups of the young season raises fresh questions about the league’s efforts to play a full slate of games ending with the Super Bowl in February, and to do so without a closed community for teams, like the N.B.A. used, to reduce the risk of infection substantially.

The league has followed Major League Baseball and relied instead of frequent testing, reconstructed team facilities to encourage social distancing, and protocols for how players, coaches and teams can interact in locker rooms, team planes and sidelines on game day.

The success of the strategy relies heavily on players, coaches and team personnel self-policing their behavior by returning home after work and not engaging in risky activities. Still, even the most cloistered players are allowed to interact with their families and others outside the N.F.L., increasing the odds of becoming infected.

The league got through the first three weeks of the season largely unscathed. But this week, the league was forced to grapple with an outbreak on the Tennessee Titans that led to their game on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be pushed back to Oct. 25. At least a dozen members of the organization — including as many as nine players — are known to be infected.

The league’s arrival at that decision showed how difficult it is to contain the virus. After three players and five staff tested positive, the league said the Titans-Steelers game would be pushed to Monday or Tuesday. Within 24 hours, more players and staff members tested positive and the game was pushed back by several weeks. Several more members of the team have since tested positive, which has prevented the team from practicing.

In response, the league tightened guidelines and testing protocols. But given the fickle nature of the virus, it is possible the Patriots-Chiefs game could be pushed back further if more players test positive.

The Patriots confirmed a positive test, but did not identify the player, in accordance with privacy policies. In a statement released Saturday, the team said the player had been isolated and that subsequent tests done on players and staff who had been in contact with him had come back negative.

According to a league official who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the teams, Newton and Jordan Ta’amu, a quarterback on the Chiefs practice squad, tested positive.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has also tried to keep players and coaches in line. Five head coaches have been fined tens of thousands of dollars for not wearing masks on the sidelines. And after the Titans’ outbreak began, the league stepped up enforcement measures to help limit exposure risks and ramp up punitive measures for missteps.