When NFL and NFLPA officials descended on Nashville to look into the Tennessee Titans COVID-19 outbreak, it put the team in a position to potentially face discipline for how they followed jointly negotiated protocols. Several teams and coaches have already been fined for individual violations, and if the Titans do have one or more problems, they could be next.
The Titans currently have 10 players on their COVID-19 reserve list, and only on Saturday they had the Jeffery Simmons defensive attack and two coaches tested positive.
Sources say the NFL and NFLPA, which could conclude their investigations in a few days, are looking into whether protocols have been breached by wearing Kinexon mandatory tracking devices, leading to gaps in the tracking data used in contact tracking and whether individuals were not timely to report the symptoms they or their family members were experiencing, among other things.
After the Titans outbreak and positive tests with many other teams, the NFL will hold a call on Monday with coaches and GMs across the league, according to sources. The message: if we want to finish this season, there can be no complacency. Everyone plays a role. Protocols aren̵
Meanwhile, the Patriots-Chiefs game originally scheduled for today is postponed to Monday or Tuesday after New England quarterback Cam Newton and Chiefs QB training team Jordan Ta’amu tested positive for the new coronavirus. Both facilities closed immediately.
The New England tests on Saturday came back clean, a source said. If both teams no longer have positive results until Sunday, the match could be played on Monday – the preference for both teams to interrupt the program as little as possible.
One change the league would consider, the sources say, is to postpone the playoffs by a week to create a buffer week – week 18 – to handle COVID-related schedule changes. It would only mean a week between league games and the Super Bowl, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented.
The league always expected there to be positive tests and situations like these, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills has said this multiple times. Attention and limiting the spread is the key. As for why the Patriots-Chiefs game was postponed and the Falcons game last week was not (despite a positive test by cornerback AJ Terrell), the answer is that it was determined that Newton and Ta ‘ amu had much closer contact than Terrell.
If the Patriots play the Chiefs on Monday – with New England potentially flying to Kansas City on Monday – and are well on their way to their next game against the Denver Broncos, there’s a real chance Brian Hoyer will both start. Newton is expected to pass two COVID-19 tests once the virus has left his body, and doing so for a period of 7 days whether he has symptoms or not is not an easy task.
While the Titans had 13 new positive cases from last Sunday’s game in Minnesota, plus two more the previous week when a training team player and a coach tested positive, the Vikings had no positive cases and traveled to Houston. Saturday for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Protocols don’t normally allow for testing on match day, but on Sunday morning all Vikings players and staff will undergo a quick point of care at the team’s hotel before they can go to the stadium.
This is something that could be set up at the league level, the sources say, if the situation calls for it.
The Titans facility remains closed until further notice and it would take at least consecutive days of clean testing to change. As of now, their match against the Bills has begun.
The Vikings facility reopened Thursday with additional intensive protocols that include daily testing at the point of care, fully virtual meetings, and mandatory use of personal protective equipment in practice, including masks or shields and gloves (except for hands throwing the quarterback).
As for the Titans, more coaches have tested positive spending matches in the upstairs coaching booth. Plexiglass dividers have been added and social distancing observed in that area this season, but people are mostly still and airflow isn’t as good as on the sidelines. Between that area and the team’s plane, there were multiple added risk factors for COVID-19 transmission during the Titans’ trip to Minnesota that may have contributed to the new positive cases in recent days.
They will likely return to their deeply cleaned building with greatly improved protocols, along with other common sense tweaks, making sure the game caller and backup caller don’t spend time close by, for example. One of the many small changes aimed at keeping everything intact.