The Tennessee Titans had two more players test positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, and it is putting their Week 5 matchup with the Buffalo Bills in jeopardy. Now, reports are coming out that as many as 15 Titans players got together for a group workout in violation of the league’s Covid-19 health protocols.
The league has various policies in place for outbreaks, and it involved shutting down the Titans facility and having players and personnel self-isolate. Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky is reporting the team gathered for a group workout at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville on September 30. The group included roughly 15 players, according to reporter Steve Layman.
The NFL has not stated next steps, but there has been talk of punishments up to and including draft pick docking or game forfeits if protocol is violated. The Titans did not play last week against the Steelers, with the game moved to Week 7. Now, their Week 5 game against the Bills seems unlikely to happen given how close these new positives are in the prep week.
The players will get plenty of blame, and rightfully so, but the league deserves its own share of blame in how this is playing out. The NFL left the potential for a game on the table well into the week until finally realizing it could not happen. Even as the outbreak was developing, the league was trying to get the Week 4 game in on Monday or Tuesday before finally moving it to Week 7.
Last week, Ryan Tannehill talked about what players needed to do with the uncertainty of whether or not a game might happen. From Kuharsky:
“You can’t sit around on the couch for a week and be on a Zoom meeting and expect to go be at a physical peak on a Sunday, or whenever the game is going to be. It’s going to look a little bit different for everybody, what they’re able to do, where they’re able to work out, in a garage, in a gym somewhere, I’m not even sure. Every man on this team is charged with prepping themselves, getting their bodies right, making sure that we’re running, we’re conditioned, and ready to go whenever the game comes around….”
The players should not have been gathering for workouts, but the league also needs to be taken to task for its handling of this outbreak and what we’re seeing develop in New England. The league needs to be open to more flexibility sooner in the process, and not when there are just no other options.
Using the Patriots as an example, their Week 5 matchup with the Broncos likely should be postponed from this weekend. They might have no additional positives between now and Saturday and figure it’s fine to play, but they might end up with positives on Friday or Saturday. Players are left to prepare without knowing until the end of the week if a game is actually happening, and that’s an entirely unfair situation to put them in.