December 8, 2021

Tracking the Titans COVID outbreak

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Nine players and nine personnel members from the Tennessee Titans have tested positive for COVID-19 since last Saturday

By Cameron Hogwood

Last Updated: 04/10/20 11:17am

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel

The NFL’s COVID-19 protocols were put to the test this week as the league was confronted by its first mid-season outbreak.

Possibility became reality in the wake of Week Three when a return of positive cases from the Tennessee Titans kickstarted a series of events that would result in the first game postponement of the new campaign.

With the NFL unable to replicate the NBA’s bubble environment for obvious logistical reasons, it always loomed as something that could happen, regardless of the strict measures put in place at team facilities over the summer.

What happened?

The Titans will not play in Week Four after several players and staff members tested positive for coronavirus The Titans will not play in Week Four after several players and staff members tested positive for coronavirus

The Titans will not play in Week Four after several players and staff members tested positive for coronavirus

It was revealed on Saturday Titans linebackers coach Shane Bowen had tested positive for the virus, meaning he was unable to make the trip for the team’s clash with the Minnesota Vikings. That left head coach Mike Vrabel to take over defensive play-calling duties in his absence.

Vrabel, the rest of his staff and all players had tested negative on the Saturday and were therefore permitted to make the journey to Minneapolis, where they edged out the Vikings 31-30. In accordance to league protocols, tests are not administered to players or staff on game-day.

Following the first day back of testing on Monday, the NFL confirmed on Tuesday three Titans players and five personnel had tested positive, followed by an additional player (Kamalei Correa) on Wednesday. The Vikings later released a statement confirming none of their players had tested positive.

Nine Titans players have tested positive in total so far Nine Titans players have tested positive in total so far

Nine Titans players have tested positive in total so far

Linebacker Correa, nose tackle DaQuan Jones, long-snapper Beau Brinkley, practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were all later placed on the Titans’ COVID-19/Reserve list.

On Thursday the NFL released another statement confirming another Titans player (cornerback Kristian Fulton) along with another personnel member had tested positive. Two more Tennessee players, wide receivers Adam Humphries and Cam Batson, tested positive on Friday before one other player (defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons) and two members of personnel tested positive on Saturday to bring the total number of Titans cases to 18.

As of Sunday, the Vikings have returned no positive cases.

League’s response?

The Titans are currently 3-0 on the season after beating the Vikings 31-30 in Minnesota last week The Titans are currently 3-0 on the season after beating the Vikings 31-30 in Minnesota last week

The Titans are currently 3-0 on the season after beating the Vikings 31-30 in Minnesota last week

The Titans immediately suspended in-person club activities in response to Tuesday’s news of the positive tests, as did the Vikings after the teams came into contact on Sunday.

NFL/NFLPA protocols require increased monitoring of those who were deemed to have close contact with somebody that tested positive for the next eight days, with positive tests proving in some cases not to show for up to seven days.

Tennessee’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, which had been scheduled for Saturday, was swiftly postponed, with the NFL envisioning pushing it back to Monday or Tuesday. It was stated the Titans were not expected to return to their training facility until at least Saturday, while the Vikings, who aimed to report back on Thursday, are still due to take on the Houston Texans as planned on Sunday after returning zero positive cases.

Following Thursday’s announcement of two additional cases, the league officially rescheduled the game for Week 7 on Sunday, October 25, taking the place of the Steelers’ clash with the Baltimore Ravens which will now be played in Week 8 on November 1. It means the Titans and Steelers both have a Week 4 bye, while the Ravens’ Week 8 bye will be in Week 7.

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NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund gives her Week Four NFL predictions. Sign up to play NFL Pick’Em

The officiating team for the Titans’ win over the Vikings, led by referee Clete Blakeman, have been required to undergo daily testing, as opposed to just two days a week, and will not officiate a game in Week Four.

NFL and NFLPA officials travelled to Nashville in wake of two further positive tests on Friday in order to monitor the Titans’ situation.

Protocols for close contact exposure to a positive individual dictate a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test be administered as soon as possible.

If the first test is negative and the person remains asymptomatic, they may return to the facility providing they are cleared with a second PCR test 24 hours later and daily testing for the next eight days.

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This is the message from Sky Sports presenters and reporters, who have united in supporting a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of online hate and abuse on social media

Should the test return positive and the Close Contact individual is symptomatic, they cannot return until 10 days have passed, or they return two consecutive negative PCR tests 24 hours apart and are approved by the team physician after consultation with ICS.

If the Close Contact individual tests positive and is showing symptoms, they cannot return to the facility unless 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, other symptoms such as coughing have improved, their return has been approved by the club physician and local regulations are satisfied.

What next?

All arrows had originally pointed towards the Titans-Steelers game being rearranged for Monday or Tuesday next week. With that in mind, the Titans would have faced an incredibly quick turnaround if unable to return to their practice facility until at least Saturday.

That would have limited the time-frame in which to introduce new plays and even address fundamentals, as former NFL coach Rob Ryan alluded to on this week’s episode of NFL Overtime.

“You can play the game, but you’re not going to win it,” he said. “It’s impossible to put in anything new for the game plan, you would have to go into the game with your bare-bones basics. That’s it.

“They can get away with a fairly normal week if they can get into their facility of Wednesday. If they can’t I don’t see how they can play the game. It would be a gross disadvantage for Tennessee.”

Though that is no longer an issue, it could yet prove to be if the NFL is faced by a similar outbreak beyond the bye weeks later in the season, which re-introduces the possibility of teams having to deal with a shortened week.

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Tom Brady insists he’s happy to have chosen the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Los Angeles Chargers, ahead of the two teams’ matchup on Sunday

Elsewhere on Saturday it was revealed New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive, leading to Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs being postponed. Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had also tested positive.

Discussing the outbreak on Inside the Huddle, Jeff Reinebold stressed the importance of players and personnel maintaining discipline.

“It was unrealistic to think we were going to go 16 weeks without an incident and I think what this will serve to do is remind everybody how important it is to stay with the protocols, you wear your mask, you don’t go out in public,” said Reinebold.

“Keyshawn Johnson spoke on his talk show, he suggested the teams go in the bubble individually, they take over a hotel in their city. The Raiders had a situation the other day at a fund-raiser where the players were mingling with the general population.

“It’s too important, the game’s too important, their salary is too important, their health is too important to let it slip now.”

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On the prospect of a shortened week, Reinebold highlighted the need to avoid putting teams, such as the Titans and Steelers, at a “competitive disadvantage”.

“I’m sure the NFL is practising what we in coaching is called anticipatory management,” he continued.

“They realise this is not going to be the only thing they’ll have to deal with in the course of the year and I’m sure they’ve got contingency plans in place or they’re working on contingency plans.”

The league recently fined a number of head coaches $100,000 and teams $250,000 for failing to wear masks on the sidelines on game-day.

On Wednesday they also introduced the idea of threatening to strip teams of draft picks should coaches not abide by mask rules.

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