The Tennessee Titans’ major coronavirus outbreak still isn’t under control, with two more positive results on Thursday, bringing the Titans’ total to 13 players who have contracted COVID-19.
The Titans’ Week 4 game against the Steelers was rescheduled after several players and staffers tested positive last week, but with the team still unable to re-enter its facility, it seems likely that Tennessee’s Week 5 game against Buffalo is in jeopardy.
There isn’t an easy and fair solution to the Titans’ current COVID-19 issues, but after it was reported that team members broke protocols to work out while the team facility was closed, it’s possible that the Titans could be forced to forfeit their Week 5 game.
On Monday, after the Steelers-Titans game was postponed, Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams warning that if a protocol violation forces a shift of the NFL schedule, teams could be forced to forfeit games, or even potentially lose draft choices.
“Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game.”
On Wednesday, the Tennessean reported that a group of Titans worked out together at a local school on September 30th, immediately after eight Titans tested positive for COVID-19.
As the Titans’ facility was closed at the time, this is a violation of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol. The following day after the players’ workout, head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters that the Titans have been following league protocol, and that the team reminded players not to gather.
The Bills are scheduled to play a Thursday game in Week 6, so the NFL doesn’t have the option of delaying the Titans-Bills game to Monday or Tuesday. Seemingly the only way to save the game would be for the NFL to postpone it to a Week 18, but NFL.com reports that the league is “trying to concoct a pathway” to hold the game at some point.
The forfeiture of a game would a major punishment – but at some point, the NFL is going to have to enforce its own rules. There was an easy fix for the missed Steelers-Titans game, but as the year drags on, rescheduling games will become even harder and could force the NFL to reschedule the playoffs and the Super Bowl. If the NFL sets a precedent that it will turn the schedule upside down even when teams are in violation of policy, it could be creating a massive headache for itself as the season progresses.