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Belichick: ‘Priority No. 1’ is team’s health, safety

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday morning that the team’s facility will remain closed through at least the rest of the day, as “it’s the health and safety of the team first and football second.”

Belichick added that the Patriots are still preparing to play Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium (CBS, 4:25 p.m. ET) until advised otherwise by those making medical decisions for the team and NFL. The Patriots, who are holding all meetings virtually, received no new positive tests from Wednesday’s results that came back late Wednesday, according to a source.

The team placed cornerback Stephon Gilmore on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday after he tested positive. Quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive last Friday, while practice-squad defensive tackle Bill Murray was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday. Being on the list does not mean a player has tested positive for the coronavirus; it could also mean he has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Of his level of concern for the continued health and safety of the team, Belichick said, “There’s nothing more important than the health of the team. Without a healthy team, you don’t have a team. That’s priority No. 1, and I’d say not only to our team but to their families and people that are close to them. That’s always our No. 1 concern. We try to do everything we can to make that the best we can make it. That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s not going to change.”

Belichick, 68, was asked how he is feeling personally and said he was “great.”

The Patriots haven’t been able to practice with their facility closed the last two days.

“We continued our preparation for Denver with virtual calls, and we’ll just kind of take the situation day by day,” Belichick said. “When we feel that it’s safe for everyone to come back, we’ll do that. We all have questions, and this is really more of a medical situation than a football situation. We’ll work through the decisions and input from the people in the medical field — combination of Patriots and league.”

With Gilmore testing positive after having played in Monday’s road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Belichick wouldn’t address whether he felt the Patriots should have played that game.

“There are a lot of decisions that are out of our control, and so what I’m trying to do is focus on the things we have control over and make the best decisions we can in those situations,” he said, adding that he feels the team has done everything possible for prevention, such as taking two planes to the game, traveling the day of the game and adding extra buses for transport.

“I think we knew at the beginning of the season that there were going to be challenges, and there have been. We’re committed to working through them, and that’s what we’re doing.”

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Finau’s health and game are doing well after his recovery from COVID-19

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tony Finau is feeling good, all things considered. And he’s relieved. Not only is he on his way back after contracting the coronavirus, but he has a big tournament to look forward to next month.

“The silver lining for me is I’m 100 percent going to play in the Masters,” Finau said Friday at Sherwood Country Club, where he shot a second-round 64 in the Zozo Championship. He trails leader Justin Thomas by 3 strokes.

Finau learned a lot about COVID-19 during his 10-day quarantine in Las Vegas after testing positive on Oct. 6, which forced him to withdraw from the Shriners for Childrens Hospital Open two weeks ago.

Among those lessons is he knows he is no longer contagious, even though he has tested positive five times since his initial diagnosis. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control state that a person can return to work 10 days following the onset of symptoms, provided there is no fever.

They also say that those who contract COVID-19 and experience symptoms will likely continue to test positive for weeks, even though they are not contagious. So Finau does not have to worry about a positive test knocking him out of the Masters — a concern Phil Mickelson raised earlier this week.

Finau had hoped to play at last week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, and the fact that he was still in Las Vegas made that easier. He was cleared to practice on that Wednesday but did not feel well enough to play.

“It just wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling up to it. I needed another week.”

Finau, 31, said he started to experience flu-like symptoms on Oct. 3. Two days later, he drove from his Salt Lake City home to the tournament in Las Vegas. He was tested the following day, with the positive result forthcoming.

“For the first five days, it got worse,” said Finau, who was required by the PGA Tour to quarantine in Las Vegas for 10 days — with a $75,000 stipend provided. “I had massive headaches, body aches. I didn’t feel like doing anything. It got me really good — fatigue-wise. I’m very active. Work out quite often. Always playing golf or with my kids and quite active. It knocked me down. There’s no question about it.

“For those 10 days, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I obviously didn’t get to practice. I lost my taste and smell after about four days. Still don’t have it back. That kind of sucks; I’m quite a foodie. It was not the experience I thought I was going to have. Most guys are asymptomatic. They say if you’re young and healthy, it’s not a big deal. I think I gained some respect for the virus.”

Finau said he does not know where he contracted the virus but was told it likely occurred during a time frame of 48 to 72 hours before his symptoms set in. He wondered about a tournament where he caddied for one of his kids. He had not competed since the U.S. Open last month.

The PGA Tour has played tournaments for four months, with a limited number of issues due to COVID-19. The Tour has announced 15 positive tests among players it has tested. Three prominent players have tested positive in the past three weeks: Finau, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.

Ranked 17th in the world, Finau has been busy since the PGA Tour’s restart following a 13-week break due to the pandemic. He played 12 times through the U.S. Open, where he tied for eighth. He also tied for fourth at the PGA Championship and had three other top-10 finishes.

“It was worse than the flu and it lasted way longer,” he said. “This was 10 days of a little bit worse symptoms than the flu and fatigue. Not really feeling like doing anything. Not really comfortable in your skin. It was quite rough. But I’m on the back end of it and I’m happy about that.

“Not that I felt I was ever going to die, but it can take your immune system to a place where I can totally see being hospitalized from it and affecting your life. In a way, I gained a respect for the actual virus. Not that I wasn’t taking it seriously. But I understand the measures that are being taken, whether you agree with it or not, it’s probably the right thing to do.”

Finau did not begin practicing again until last Saturday. He had planned to play both Las Vegas events and the Zozo, so he lost two weeks of tournament golf, a bit of a setback in his Masters preparation.

“I’m just trying to be as healthy as possible now,” Finau said. “I’ve made some great strides in the last week. Just how my body feels. I’ve got this week. I’m playing Houston. Played a great round of golf today which is huge for me. And I think [Augusta National] is a place where I can play well no matter what.”

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‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez-‘El Gallo’ Estrada rematch has the potential to be another classic battle

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Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez scored impressive wins on Friday in Mexico City to set up a potential rematch of their tremendous battle in 2012, which Gonzalez won by unanimous decision.

Chocolatito defeated Israel Gonzalez by unanimous decision to retain his WBA junior bantamweight belt, and then in the main event, Estrada stopped Carlos Cuadras in Round 11 after recovering from a third-round knockdown.

Estrada’s win over Cuadras — his second victory over Cuadras, who he beat by points the first time around by scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112 at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles — bookends an impressive run. Since that fight Estrada has gone 15-1, and Gonzalez has been on point himself during that period with a record of 16-2, 13 KOs — with both of those losses coming at the hands of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Estrada’s lone loss in that stretch also came at the hands of SSR, though Estrada later avenged that defeat by defeating Rungvisai in a rematch in April 2019.

So, what can we expect in the rematch? Can Gonzalez repeat history, or is Estrada the better fighter now? Steve Kim breaks it down.

What do you expect from an Estrada-Gonzalez rematch?

Another classic battle. Having been lucky enough to have been at their first clash back in 2012 at the LA Sports Arena, I expect the second chapter to be just as entertaining, if not more so. Just for the simple fact that both boxers have so much on the line, and that they are both incredibly prideful, world-class fighters.

You could say that Gonzalez is no longer in his prime, but since his KO loss in the second Sor Rungvisai fight in 2017, he is now in a career renaissance of sorts — and he’s still an offensive force, one who simply avalanches his foes in leather. Estrada is also an improved fighter since their first meeting, and has been yearning for revenge.

Their styles mesh perfectly: the steady two-fisted arsenal of Chocolatito, who weaves exquisite combinations, against the precise, heavy-handed counter-punches from Estrada.

It’s time to find out who is the lord of the super flys.

How does Estrada win?

By being the younger, fresher fighter down the stretch. Which means he’ll have to overcome the steady work rate of Gonzalez in the first half of the fight, withstand all that comes his way and land his share of body shots early to set up a strong finishing kick. Gonzalez is still a solid puncher at 115, but he isn’t hitting through his opponents as he did at lower weight classes.

At this stage of their careers and this weight class, Estrada might actually be the more forceful puncher. But he can’t allow himself to be outworked in the early rounds to a degree that he falls too far behind, as he did in his first bout with Sor Rungvisai.

How does Gonzalez win?

Does Gonzalez have another great night in him? He is 33, which is unusually old for a smaller fighter to be at the world-class level. Once again, he’ll have to get in great shape and then be prepared to set a fast pace, be the busier fighter than Estrada — especially early on — and hopefully soften him up enough to a point where he wont have enough in the gas tank to come on strong.

Chocolatito will most likely be an underdog in this rematch, but as you saw in Estrada-Cuadras II, a lot of leather was landed by Estrada before he secured the TKO. Cuadras is a bit of a slap hitter, one that doesn’t completely turn his punches over, and that isn’t the case with Gonzalez, who throws punches with great torque and balance that gives him the ability to throw one punch after another seamlessly.

Should Martinez move up to face Gonzalez and/or Estrada? Or should he stay at flyweight and unify titles?

If Martinez can’t get a unification bout with Moruti Mthalane at flyweight, he should go big game hunting at junior bantamweight, where there are bigger, more recognizable names. And as he waits for Estrada and Gonzalez to engage in their rematch there are other names For Martinez to pursue, like Joshua Franco, Kazuto Ioka or Jerwin Ancajas, who all have title belts and would make for interesting fights.

Martinez is a highly entertaining fighter that also brings pressure, is relentless and has shown a willingness to mix it up from the very first bell. He doesn’t just throw a lot of punches, Martinez also has very bad intentions on each punch.

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Source: Washington QB Haskins fined for virus violation

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ASHBURN, Va., — The Washington Football team fined quarterback Dwayne Haskins for violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Haskins made a reservation for a family friend at the team hotel the night before Washington played at the New York Giants last week. The team fined him $4,833 — the maximum it could have fined him was $14,650, a source told Schefter. Another source said Haskins had made a reservation for this person, but it was caught before the person arrived, so there was never any contact.

Washington has not had any positive test cases since the team reported for training camp in late July. The team also was the first to pull its scouts off the road in the spring when the pandemic hit and among the first to close its building.

Haskins, the 15th overall pick in 2019, was inactive for the game, a 20-19 loss. Washington benched him two weeks ago in favor of Kyle Allen.

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