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COVID-19 Concerns Threaten Two Sunday NFL Games

Ross Everett
by in NFL on
  • The Tennessee Titans have closed team facilities after three players and five personnel members tested positive for coronavirus.
  • The Minnesota Vikings played the Titans on Sunday and have also closed their facility.
  • Both teams have indicated that their Week 4 games might have to be rescheduled.

Even before the NFL season began there was plenty of speculation that the league would have trouble avoiding a coronavirus outbreak at some point during the 2020 regular season. The league opted against the ‘bubble’ concept adopted by the NHL and NBA and the high contact nature of games and practices are considered especially problematic for transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The league appeared to have been lucky to get the first three weeks of the season in the books without any issues related to the coronavirus but it now appears that their luck has run out.

The Tennessee Titans have put a stop to in-person workouts after the team learned that three players and five personnel members have tested positive for the coronavirus. The move was made on Tuesday morning when test results came back and the Titans are now working with the league office to coordinate their response. In addition, the Titans opponent from the previous Sunday–the Minnesota Vikings–have also closed facilities and suspended team activities ‘out of an abundance of caution’.

The league is taking the first coronavirus outbreak of the season very seriously and this extends to ‘spin control’. Earlier today, the NFL and NFL Players’ Association released this joint statement:

“Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA, including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments. All decisions will be made with health and safety as our primary consideration. We will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.”

So too did the teams involved starting with the Titans:

“Out of the abundance of caution, the organization has decided to work remotely today as we follow NFL protocols related to the COVID-19 virus. Several tests have come back positive and are working through the process of confirming them. We will have more information tomorrow.”

Followed by the Vikings:

“Today the NFL notified us that members of the Tennessee Titans organization have tested positive for COVID-19. As of this morning, we have not received any positive results from Vikings testing following Sunday’s game. Per the NFL protocol, we will suspend in-person club activities and close TCO Performance Center immediately. We will work closely with the NFL and NFLPA to monitor the situation, perform additional testing and determine when the facility can reopen. We will provide further updates regarding this week’s football schedule when appropriate.”

According to ‘a source’ that spoke to ESPN all players/personnel that tested positive are asymptomatic as of Tuesday afternoon. The league has a clear protocol for what happens now, at least as it concerns the participation of the players:

Players who test positive for COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic can return 10 days after the test or after five days with two consecutive negative tests within a five-day period. Those who show symptoms can return 10 days after the symptoms first appear and 72 hours have passed since any symptoms have ended.

All players who test positive must be cleared by the team’s physician and undergo cardiac testing.

The Titans will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Vikings play on the road at Houston. As of now, the NFL has instructed all teams involved to proceed with game preparations until they hear otherwise. This includes the Titans and Vikings subject to the ‘no live practice’ restriction. The NFL Network has reported that Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel has told the players there will be ‘no excuses’ on Sunday despite the disrupted week of preparation:

(The NFL Network’s Mike) Garafolo reported that Titans coach have told players that if they are forced to go without any on-field practice work apart from a potential Saturday walkthrough ahead of Sunday’s game, then that will simply be what they have to do this week and there will be no excuses.

The situation should have more clarity in the morning after the Titans and Vikings coordinate their response with the NFL and NFLPA. That will depend largely on the confirmation of the positive test results in Nashville. In our next update we’ll look at how the sports betting ecosystem is responding to the news.

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