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Amidst COVID-19 Battle, Cardinals Turn Attention To Patriots

Team will be without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, two others

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will aim to have a big game against the Patriots.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will aim to have a big game against the Patriots.

The Cardinals have a critical game coming up on Sunday, but there weren't many questions about the Patriots during Kliff Kingsbury's press conference on Friday.

Such is the current reality, where showdowns with opponents are taking a back seat to the battle at home.

The Cardinals put three players on the COVID-19 reserve list this week – wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, safety Deionte Thompson and wide receiver Trent Sherfield – with the hope that this is not the tip of the iceberg.

There is certainly a troubling trend leaguewide, as the Ravens-Steelers game has been moved twice in recent days and myriad other organizations are seeing an uptick in cases.

 "You hope each day that you don't get an email saying you have an issue," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "And if you do, you adapt and adjust, and try to put your best foot forward."

The Cardinals head to New England short-handed at wide receiver, but they can consider themselves amongst the lucky ones thus far. Six Cardinals in all have been placed on the COVID-19 list this season, as the current trio was preceded by wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, cornerback Byron Murphy and outside linebacker Devon Kennard.

All but Johnson have come within the past month.

"This is that time of the year, that cold and flu season," left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "It doesn't surprise me that it's popping up again. We've just got continue to run these protocols and keep it safe. For as much face-to-face contact as we've had, the amount of outbreaks we've had is very miniscule in the grand scheme of things, if you think about it."

The coronavirus makes for an uncertain future, so the Cardinals will focus on the path they control, and Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium has big ramifications.

At 6-4, the Cardinals sit in the final wild card spot in the NFC, a game behind the Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West. A win would keep pace in the division and put them on solid footing to qualify for the postseason, while a loss would allow a bevy of conference foes to creep closer.

The Cardinals will have quarterback Kyler Murray available, as he has been cleared to play after suffering an injury to his throwing shoulder against the Seahawks. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a master tactician, but he can only do so much from the sidelines while trying to bottle up Murray.

"He can hurt you in a lot of different ways," Belichick said. "He's a fast, explosive player with a good arm. He's in a good offensive system. Kliff puts a lot of pressure on him with the scheme that they run, the running game, the passing game, the RPOs. He gives you a lot of things to deal with."

Murray has become arguably the most potent dual-threat quarterback in the NFL, an honor once bestowed on New England's quarterback, Cam Newton.

The Patriots are one of the most efficient running teams in the league this season, and they will undoubtedly test a Cardinals front that could be missing as many as six key defensive linemen.

"It's going to be a chore to slow them down," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said.

At least the game is set to be played. The Cardinals may be down three pieces on Sunday due to COVID-19, but safety Budda Baker said the team has been preparing for this since the start of the year.

There is a popular 'Next Man Up' mentality in football that usually refers to injuries, but now it's switched to dealing with the virus.

"You pray for those guys, and hopefully those guys aren't feeling too bad," Baker said. "If they are, hopefully they have a speedy recovery. For us, life goes on. We're still going to be leaving (for New England on Friday). We still have a game on Sunday. As we're going to miss those guys, we still have to take care of the task at hand. That's what we're planning to do."

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