The NFL is reeling Tuesday after a report than the Titans had a major Covid-19 outbreak inside their organization, and may have hidden that information from the league. Now, with a lockdown of the team in effect, there are questions about how wide the spread may have gone, whether it impacted the Vikings, who were the Titans’ Week 3 opponents, and where the NFL goes from here.
When did this all begin?
The NFL has a policy of daily Covid testing for players and personnel, with Sunday being the only day tests are not administered. Prior to the Titans’ trip to Minnesota, OLB coach Shane Bowen tested positive during Saturday testing. He did not travel with the team, and no other players or personnel stayed in Tennessee.
Players and personnel were once again tested on Monday, this time showing that three Titans players, and five personnel members were positive for the virus. The league instituted immediate contact tracing to try and isolate who else may have been exposed to the infected individuals. Titans coach Mike Vrabel seemed like he expected the outbreak during his time with media on Monday:
“We’re following the 100 memos [the NFL’s] sent out, verbatim. We’ll keep you updated on the roster and who has to be out and who doesn’t.”
As a result the Titans and Vikings have suspended all in-person activities until they learn more about the situation, and who may have been effected.
How did the process break down?
Very little is known about how the outbreak started at this time. However, the failure point seems to be allowing individuals who were in direct contact with someone who tested positive to travel and play like normal. Because the NFL doesn’t require Sunday testing, it allowed one or more individuals to make the trip, and return without anybody knowing they had Covid until tests were complete on Monday.
This meant that for a 24 hour period, everyone who came in contact with these individuals could have been spreading the virus.
What has happened since Tuesday?
Initially it seemed like we’d just see some delays while the situation got worked out, but it progressed from there. The game between Tennessee and Pittsburgh was at first postponed until Monday or Tuesday, then more players tested positive for the Titans.
New from the league pic.twitter.com/RnLcZ9mSPj— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) September 30, 2020
Soon the game was called off all together, with plans being made to make the game up later in the season.
The NFL is rescheduling the #Steelers-#Titans game to later in the season after an additional Titans player and one personnel tested positive for COVID-19. It will not be played Week 4.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 1, 2020
On Thursday two more Titans players tested positive. It’s unclear how many players have now been exposed, or how many more could have Covid-19. Meanwhile, the Vikings seems to have dodged a bullet. Currently there are no positive tests inside the Vikings organization, but the situation is being monitored.
This is the NFL’s first major Covid challenge . It was bound to happen sometime during the season, but now the league needs to find the fail points, correct them, and work on a better plan moving forward. For now the season is a mess and it’s unclear how things will proceed, should the Titans continue to struggle with Covid.
October 8 Update: We are now a week after the initial Covid outbreaks on the Titans and things have progressed. As of Thursday morning 23 people inside the organization, players and personnel combined have tested positive for the virus. It’s unclear whether the game between Tennessee and Buffalo will happen this week, or how the league will continue to operate with such a widespread outbreak inside one of its teams.