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Bill Belichick reacts to Nick Saban testing positive for COVID-19

Bill Belichick and Nick Saban go back a long way, and the New England Patriots head coach passed along his best wishes during Thursday morning’s media availability session after the Alabama Crimson Tide boss tested positive for coronavirus.

Alabama announced Wednesday that both Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne have tested positive for COVID-19. Saban will self-isolate at home and oversee Crimson Tide practices via Zoom in the interim.

Belichick opened his Thursday morning’s virtual video conference by showing support for his longtime friend and onetime assistant.

The friendship between Belichick and Saban goes back a long way. The six-time national champion served as Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in the early ’90s. That bond has strengthened over the years, and even served as inspiration for an HBO special earlier this year, “Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching,” in which the two discussed coaching philosophies, etc.

Belichick of course knows firsthand about the challenges inherent to playing football in the age of the coronavirus. Last week, Belichick canceled practice and closed the team facility for three days after cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19.

Gilmore’s diagnosis followed Cam Newton also testing positive for coronavirus the previous week, and there has been speculation about how one may have caused the other. Two Patriots games have also been rescheduled this season due to coronavirus-related issues.

“We both talked about how much we’ve learned about this situation and some of the challenges that have come with it,” Belichick said. “I know he’s been extremely vigilant and has put a great deal of thought and effort into the care of his team and players. He shared that with me, and we both talked about things that we’ve done and have been helpful and so forth. So I just want to wish him the best from all of us here in the organization.”

Saban, 68, said he felt well before the positive test result, and the diagnosis surprised him. He is said to be currently asymptomatic.