Heading into the 2020 NFL season, the Tennessee Titans seemed like they were in pretty good shape. 2019 ended with a run to the AFC title game; both Derek Henry and Ryan Tannehill were returning, and, with an expanded postseason, the club seemed like a safe bet to secure a playoff berth. COVID-19, however, has thrown a wrench into their plans.
As of now, the Tennessee Titans are ground-zero of the NFL’s COVID-19 crisis; their Week 4 game was postponed, and, after more positive tests, Week 5’s date with the Buffalo Bills could be in jeopardy. On Wednesday, though, the situation may have gotten even worse.
The NFL bet on its own ability to play through the COVID-19 pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, the NFL had time on its side; unlike other leagues, football games wouldn’t begin in earnest for several months. Facing that reality, Roger Goodell and company made some changes, hoping that the 2020 season could still take place.
The first big changes centered around the NFL draft, which took place at the end of April. While the event was supposed to be a multi-day affair in Las Vegas, the league was forced to call an audible. Things moved online and, for the most part, went off without a hitch. The changes, however, wouldn’t end there.
As the regular season approached, it became more and more apparent that the NFL was staring down the barrel of an unprecedented situation. Players were allowed to opt-out of the 2020 campaign without penalty; preseason games were canceled. Coaches and officials have to wear face masks and, while each location has different rules, no team is playing in front of a sold-out home crowd.
Depending on your perspective, those changes could seem insignificant, drastic, or anything in between. The NFL, however, was ready to be on itself; even without a bubble, they were playing football.
The Tennessee Titans have found themselves in a tough spot
While every football fan was crossed their fingers and hoped that the NFL season could go without incident, that wasn’t to be. Unfortunately for the Tennessee Titans, they seem to be ground zero for the league’s growing COVID-19 crisis.
During Week 4 of the season, multiple members of the Titans organization tested positive for COVID-19; as we’ve seen countless times over the past several months, a handful of infections is enough to start a sizable chain reaction.
The Titans’ facility promptly closed, and their Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was moved to Week 7. Things seemed to return to normal, though, and after two straight days of clean tests, Tennessee hoped to get back to work on Wednesday. Those plans, however, were dashed.
On Wednesday morning, news broke that two tests came back positive; according to NFL.com, wide receiver Corey Davis landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list while the other test was deemed inconclusive. It goes without saying that the Titans couldn’t reopen their team facility, and, as of now, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to take the field in Week 5.
The Tennessee Titans might have made their COVID-19 crisis even worse
It’s safe to say that the Tennessee Titans are stuck in a pretty tough spot. On Wednesday, however, the team’s COVID-19 crisis might have become even worse.
As spelled out by Turron Davenport of ESPN, a school official at Montgomery Bell Academy confirmed that a group of Titans players worked out on the school’s campus last week when the team facility was closed. Davenport, however, also noted that “the NFL and Titans informed players one day later that they were banned from any in-person gathering outside of team facilities.”
In light of the Titans’ continued COVID-19 issues, though, the NFL may take an even dimmer view of that meeting.
“The Titans already faced a potentially significant punishment for alleged protocol breaches that fueled an outbreak of COVID-19,” Mike Florio wrote for ProFootballTalk. “Given the news that the team apparently gathered to practice last week after expressly being told not to do so, the Titans could be facing a consequence the likes of which the NFL has never seen. There’s buzz in league circles of possible “historic” punishment for the Titans given the various violations.”
At this point, the main point of contention seems to be when the Titans players were told that they couldn’t meet; Florio and others have suggested that it happened before the workout, while Davenport appears to be reporting a different sequence of events.
One thing, however, seems pretty clear amid the chaos. If the Tennessee Titans players earned their club some additional punishment from the league, that would only make the current situation even more painful.