If the NFL hasn’t hit panic mode yet, it has to be getting close. Although there’s still only a handful (maybe two handfuls) of NFL players who have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), the outlook is scary. It’s scary in terms of hoping to finish a full NFL season. There’s been an outbreak within the Tennessee Titans organization, and now Cam Newton of the New England Patriots has tested positive for the virus. We’ve only finished Week 3 of the NFL and there has already been a major shuffling of the schedule and now the status of the Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots game is in the air. How long can this go on?
The Tennessee Titans’ situation is unsettling, but not unexpected
On Sept. 26, Tennessee Titans linebackers coach Shane Bowen tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, 16 members of the organization have tested positive. Eight players and eight staff members have been diagnosed with the virus, forcing the postponement of this weekend’s game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While there has been an outbreak within the organization, the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, isn’t surprised. “This is why we have the protocols,” Sills said, according to NFL.com. “We expect to have positive cases. We’ve been unbelievably fortunate to this point to have very few. But given how endemic this disease is in the population and given how easy it is to transmit, we expect we are going to have positive cases.”
If there’s any good news regarding the Tennessee Titans’ situation, it’s that the team they played last Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings, have had zero positive tests. The Vikings, like the Titans, had shut down their facility. After a few days with no positive tests, they went back to work Thursday. They are on schedule to play at the Houston Texas on Sunday.
Cam Newton’s positive test already causing problems
It was made public that New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the Patriots were to fly out for their Week 4 game. According to NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Patriots were supposed to fly out at 1 p.m. for their flight to Kansas City. Instead, the team left the facility and is now awaiting word if/when their game will be played this week.
Newton’s positive test has forced the postponement of the Patriots vs. Chiefs game on Sunday. The league is hoping to reschedule it for either Monday or Tuesday. According to Schefter the league is awaiting more test results Sunday and will make a determination then.
Making matters worse is that one of the Kansas City Chiefs practice-squad players, Jordan Ta’amu, also tested positive for the virus. Ta’amu was the scout team’s quarterback who played the role of Newton during practices. Newton found out the results of his test either late Friday night or Saturday morning. That means he was tested Friday morning and then practiced and was around the team all day Friday. Sunday’s results will be crucial.
How long can the NFL go on?
Major League Baseball dealt with the same COVID-19 problems the NFL is dealing with now when baseball returned to action this year. Members of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals tested positive, forcing some schedule shuffling. MLB is now in the middle of its playoffs and seems to be running smoothly.
The NFL, however, is not Major League Baseball. The league isn’t in a position where it can have a team take two days off and then play a pair of seven-inning doubleheaders. Scheduling of postponed NFL games can turn into a nightmare if other teams begin following the path of the Tennessee Titans. Cam Newton just tested positive Saturday and the league can’t get a read if the game will be rescheduled for Monday, Tuesday, or any other time.
The league is already scrambling to make adjustments and we’ve got 14 weeks to go. More positive cases are turning up and there’s not a whole lot of margin for error in scheduling for the NFL. If Sunday’s tests show more Patriots players testing positive, the NFL season may be in serious jeopardy.