Lions game still on after Saints player reportedly cleared following false-positive COVID test

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Overnight, concerns were raised about the viability of Sunday's matchup between the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints after Saints fullback Michael Burton reportedly tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. 

But follow-up testing cleared Burton early Sunday morning — indicating a false-positive result — according to multiple reports out of New Orleans, paving the way for him, and the teams, to play. 

Saints' Michael Burton (32) on the sidelines in the fourth quarter.

The initial Burton news came hours after New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for the virus Saturday afternoon, forcing the NFL to postpone this weekend’s game between the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

As part of protocols put in place after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a false-positive test this summer, Burton was re-tested to determine if his own result fell under that category. The team also tested several players in close contact with Burton on the flight to Detroit, including star running back Alvin Kamara.

All those results reportedly came back negative. And that was enough reassurance for the Lions and Stafford to take the field. 

"I trust what the league is doing and they're doing as good of a job as they possibly can," Stafford said after the Lions' 35-29 loss. "If they say it's safe to go out there and play, we're going to go out there and do it."

This week has been the league's biggest test against the virus. The Chiefs-Patriots matchup has been tentatively moved to Monday or Tuesday, likely the latter, after Newton's positive test.

Given the quarterback's contact with players during the practice week, the league wants to ensure the case remains isolated, unlike what's happened with the Tennessee Titans this past week. 

The Titans were the first team to have a game postponed after experiencing an outbreak. Over the past 10 days, the organization has had 16 positive cases, including eight players. The team reported new cases each of the past five days, including Saturday.

The Titans’ opponent last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings, also had to temporarily shut down their facilities, but after no positive tests for their franchise, they remain on track to play the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Burton, 28, was drafted by the Lions in the fifth round in 2015 out of Rutgers. He appeared in 31 games with the Lions over two seasons. The Lions waived Burton in 2017 and he was signed by the Chicago Bears. He also played with Washington before signing with New Orleans.