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UPDATE: Titans-Steelers Postponed to Week 7 over Positive COVID Tests

Uh-oh.

The Titans had three players and five other personnel test positive for COVID-19. Both the Titans and the Vikings (yesterday's opponent) are suspending in-person activities until they can test everyone again. A league source has said "We are shutting down Tennessee until Saturday." Unknown at this point what this will mean for Sunday's games, Tennessee-Pittsburgh and Minnesota-Houston. More news to come.

UPDATE: The NFL announced Wednesday morning that the Tennessee-Pittsburgh game will be postponed until either Monday or Tuesday, still to be determined. One additional Tennessee player has tested positive. 

FURTHER UPDATE: After another Tennessee player tested positive on Wednesday, the NFL has announced that the game will not be played in Week 4 and will be moved to later in the season. No other specifics yet on how that will work.

EVEN FURTHER UPDATE: On Friday morning, the NFL officially announced that this game will be rescheduled for Week 7, and the Ravens-Steelers game originally scheduled in Week 7 will now take place in Week 8. The league got lucky that an easy schedule shift was available because of the bye-week scheduling. Next time a team has an outbreak, rescheduling may not be so easy.

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Comments

77 comments, Last at 05 Oct 2020, 5:02pm

45 The fourth player is outside…

The fourth player is outside linebacker Kamalei Correa. Perhaps not surprising given that the initial positive on Saturday was the linebackers coach.

Results of Thursday's COVID testing are going to be critical, especially if reports by The Tennessean are accurate that the league is considering opening up the Titans' facilities as soon as Friday. (A move I don't understand. We're talking close contact with known infected individuals Monday, add 5-7 days means waiting AT LEAST for Saturday's test results, which would be in on Sunday.)

58 There's still a chance all…

There's still a chance all these cases trace back to the OLB coach, but we are starting to push it. I really hope there was no transmission player-to-player.

Another day another clean bill of health from the Vikings, so that's positive.

72 The league isn't going to…

The league isn't going to care (much) about the numbers as long as the outbreak is contained. If everyone dispersed and avoided meeting in private as they were told to TUESDAY, the outbreak should be contained - we just don't know WHO it's contained to yet, so everyone has to stay apart until we do.

With last contact Tuesday, 5-7 days should be fine (the epidemiologists at the hospital my wife works at say 4 is enough). So in terms of outbreak containment, it doesn't really matter too much if there are five more positive tomorrow or zero. As long as the rules were followed from Tuesday, there shouldn't be any more positive tests popping up after this weekend.

On the other hand, if we see more positive tests from the Titans in a few days, there's s breach somewhere and the clock starts over unless you can trace said breach with absolute certainly.

73 Three more reported this…

Three more reported this morning. 
 

I’m no Virologist or other medical professional. Frankly, I don’t even know if “virologist” is a word. But it’s clear to me that the virus does not possess a one-size-fits-all incubation period. I’m fairly certain that all these positive cases have the same origin point, and are not separate introductions to the Titans organization through a breach in protocol. 
 

it honestly looks like a forfeit for the Bills game next weekend, unless the NFL already wants to make the call to extend the regular season a week or two. 

77 The info I've seen is that…

The info I've seen is that they do have contingency there. That they have everything for the super bowl booked for like a month extra in case the season gets delayed. I have no idea what the protocol is though, how they make the call to extend vs. forfeit.

5 Which is fine when both…

Which is fine when both teams get about the same amount of time to practice. But if the Titans don't practice all week and the Steelers do, I don't like their odds.

Have to assume the NFL thought this situation already and came up with a solution that tries to be as fair as possible under the circumstances.   Then again this is the league that gave us Sunday-Thursday schedules ...

6 They could move back to…

They could move back to Monday and double-up that week.

Or they could try to squeeze in a Thursday game around October 29. Steelers have a bye the week of 11/1, and the Titans have Cincinnati, which is basically the same thing.

7 Sustainability

This might work now - but would set an unsustainable precedent. It's likely that over the season there will be other teams with COVID-19 cases, and it will not always be possible to reschedule their games for bye weeks.

I assume they'll just let the Titans get decapitated on sunday - which should be strong incentive for coaches to force their players to stay isolated surrounded by a mote of hand sanitizer and UV disinfecting lights.

9 No Excuses

Per NFL.com:

"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."

12 That's a very Belichick…

In reply to by ZosoLZ4

That's a very Belichick attitude which Vrabel has picked up.

It forces your team to get on and do whatever they're told by coaches to do at home.  E.g. go through the playbook, hit your home gym etc, etc.   I presume they will still have team meetings by Zoom.

The outstanding question is how you fill the roster if numerous players are out.  I know they increased the size of practice squad but if you have to get a free agent in?

 

 

23 Yup, that's exactly the…

Yup, that's exactly the right message from the coaching staff.  There are no excuses.  Regardless of what life throws at us, we show up Sunday ready to play to win.

Whatever happens this week, that attitude sets them up well for the remainder of the season.

re filling out the roster, I'd assume the league has specified some set of #s, which if the team can't meet because of Covid-related absences, the game doesn't proceed.  You can't send 11 D players out on the field and expect them to play the whole game, there'd be too much risk of injury.  I haven't heard what the consequences of not being able to fill the roster is, but I'd guess it would have to be a default. 

25 Belichick had also been a…

Belichick had also strongly advocated quarantining your emergency backups for this sort of situation, and have guys who know your system like Brian Hoyer just do the zoom conferences and home gym thing.

I imagine that Stidham's injury limited the feasibility of actually playing this out, though.

Insert also the Tomlinian Tautology, "The Standard is the Standard"tm, i.e. next man up.

43 Nice, as a fan of one of…

Nice, as a fan of one of McCown's many teams - in fact, one that got to have him for multiple years, and even got his brother before that - I heard about some of this story on the local sports radio, but didn't hear that he was back in TX.

The way Wentz is struggling, though...better be ready...

I was thinking Browns might do that with Case Keenum, but the way Baker struggled the first week it wouldn't have been the wisest idea.

10 Still can't belive they kept a normal schedule.

I was always amazed the NFL thought they could keep a normal schedule.  This situation was so predictable, actually expected.  They could've easily removed a couple games from the schedule (pick 2 intra-conference games/team).  Then they would've had 2 weeks at the end for making up cancelled games.  Now they either have to play an very uneven game where one team gets normal practice and the other sits around all week or cancel the game.  If they cancel the game, maybe they can wedge it into a bye week somehow but that situation is not repeatable, particularly late in the year when the byes are past.  Just dumb planning.  Hubris maybe?

11 Hubris, or Different Presupositions

I was never amazed that the NFL set a normal schedule and always assumed they would just make teams live with losses in tough situations like they did with replacement players. The NFL's attitude to palpable unfairness has always been - live with it for the sake of the shield. I don't see why this would be different.

 

 

13 I guess the NFL wants the…

I guess the NFL is focused on the revenues from a full slate of games.  Unless one-sided games start turning into 1987 Replacement level, something is better than nothing.  After all some people watched the Bengals-Eagles overtime.

14 I guess the interesting…

I guess the interesting situation will be if a team gets hit hard by the virus.  Say 25 players test positive.  Can you fill a roster in under a week from street free agents?  I guess from my perspective, it seems likely that games will have to be cancelled at some time this year.  Do they just cancel the game and have crazy end of year records with different amounts of games played?

18 Huh, I hadn't even…

Huh, I hadn't even considered that the league would basically put the onus on teams.  Show up with whatever you can cobble together for a team or forfeit.  Interesting.  While I think it likely a team will get hit hard by the virus at some point this year, I think the odds two teams get hit in the same week when they play each other is minimal.  So I guess from the league's view this works, just could make for some ugly football.  We've watched some ugly football before.  You only have to go back to the replacement refs for a recent example.

16 Free agents is the question…

Free agents is the question I posed up above.

Back in 1987, teams told guys they'd had in training camp to be ready for the call if they went to replacement games. I assume teams will have done that this year.

Because as I see it, the issue isn't so much getting 25 new guys in ...  it's they may not get to practice together AT ALL prior to a game. 

Can you imagine a defense with even one unpracticed free agent trying to play against an offenses that understand how to exploit matchups?

24 It seems not too bad if they…

It seems not too bad if they wind up cancelling some games and treating them like ties for the purpose of playoff seeding. Especially if every team plays at least 15 games.

As with ties, a cancelled game actually reduces the chances that there will be a tie in record at the end of the season. A team that finishes 9-6 with one cancelled game slots in behind all the 10-6 teams, and ahead of all the 9-7 teams. Which seems fine, and in some ways better than distinguishing teams using the weird tiebreaker rules.

Things get weirder if some teams miss a bunch of games, and you're looking at a 8-4 team or whatever.

27 Nope

My understanding is that ties are worth 1/17th of a win. So a 1-15 team would rank ahead of a 0-0-16 team 

Half a win is a helpful shortcut when ties are rare, but I believe that wins are the primary sort, and ties are only counted if teams have the same number of wins 

28 Prior to '72 or thereabouts,…

In reply to by David

Prior to '72 or thereabouts, tie games didn't count in any way. They were ignored like the embarrassing outcomes they were (and are).

Today, tie games count for 0.5 in both win and loss columns.

https://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/nfl-tiebreaking-procedures/

"NOTE: Tie games count as one-half win and one-half loss for both clubs."

29 This is incorrect; ties…

In reply to by David

This is incorrect; ties count as 0.5 wins and 0.5 losses.

Look at the official standings on NFL.com for last year.  The Cardinals are 5-10-1, with a winning percentage of 0.344.

If ties counted as 1/17 of a win, as you say, the Cardinals' winning percentage would be (5 + 1/17) / 16, or 0.316.  But since ties are worth 0.5 wins, their winning percentage is 5.5 / 16, or 0.344.

31 Playoffs

0-0-16 is also better than 7-9; which highlights that if any significant number of games are cancled and declared ties this probably needs to be re-thought. 

36 Yeah, you can't count an…

In reply to by sbond101

Yeah, you can't count an unplayed game as a tie.  

If NFL teams end up with a different number of games played, you just have to go by winning percentage of actual games played.  Though there may be an argument that teams/players have SOME control over their ability to avoid COVID that maybe standings should be determined solely by counting wins (and counting ties as half wins).  So that a team that finishes 9-7 would finish ahead of a team that goes 8-6.

I wonder if the NFL has actually considered the possibility of some games not being played at all, and how that would factor into the standings.  If they have, it seems like they should let their fans know what the plan is.

44 "Though there may be an…

"Though there may be an argument that teams/players have SOME control over their ability to avoid COVID"

That seems to have been the crux of the "TN has to play this week or they forfeit" argument that the Steelers pushed for and won on.

PIT didn't want to have to use up their bye week unexpectedly early because of someone else's decisions and actions.

Of course, in 2017, MIA and TB both used their bye week in Wk1 and played 16 straight games because of Hurricane Irma, but that is a different scenario that neither team had control over, nor would it have been feasible to postpone only a day or two.

38 According to the league…

According to the league statement, the Vikings (against whom the Titans played) have shut down as well. No positive tests out of Minnesota, though. Also no indication that the Texans-Vikings game is being postponed.

47 I wouldn't want to play that…

I wouldn't want to play that game if I'm the Texans. The last I heard it can take 5 to 10 days for a person exposed to COVID to test positive. At the moment we really have no idea how easily it is transmitted during a football game. By Sunday we might know that it is easily transmitted if a couple of Vikings have tested positive, but we won't know for sure that it is not easily transmitted. What if they play and then Monday several Vikings finally test positive? Then the Texans would have to be shut down. This stuff has to be nipped in the bud, trying to play the Vikings game this week is just asking for trouble.

49 The relevant number is how…

The relevant number is how many days before testing positive might a person be contagious.

So the 5-10 days isn't relevant as it pertains to the Vikings.

I don't know the exact answer to the relevant number, but logically there has to be virus present in order for a person to be infectious. If virus is present, odds are they would test positive. So it seems like a question of the sensitivity of the test compared to the risk it infection from an individual with such a small amount of virus present.

In other words, the Vikings probably dodged a bullet and reopening doesn't seem unreasonable (which I'll admit wasn't my initial conclusion).

51 " If virus is present, odds…

" If virus is present, odds are they would test positive. "

 

I'm not sure that's true.  The Titans had a new player test positive this morning (I think the test was actually performed on Wednesday).  Theoretically he tested negative on Tuesday, after the team had already been told to stay away from the facility.  So if he caught the virus from a teammate he contracted it no later than Monday morning, yet tested negative on Tuesday.

Unless my timeline is wrong.

52 Let me rephrase/clarify: If…

Let me rephrase/clarify:

If the virus is present in sufficient quantities as to enable reasonable risk of transmission, there would reasonable seem to be enough for the test to come up positive.

It's clearly possible to test negative for at least a few days after becoming infected. The question is if you are contagious while testing negative.

A virus can multiply very, very quickly and there's something like a 24h delay on the tests they are using, so there's still some wiggle room.

53 Transmission & Testing

It's pretty clear that the virus can be transmitted in the interval between contraction and the results of a positive test - incidents like this are part of the large pile of evidence to this effect.

One of the issues at play here is viral load & baseline resistance. Most people exposed to a small viral load will not begin a replicating infection because of the physical barriers to infection that the body has (mucus, cilia, etc..) which is why virus's are typically only communicated through significant exposures to actively infected persons. The opposing team of players that test negative fall into the category of highly to be infected - but the probability is not close to zero.

50 It's plausible that one…

It's plausible that one player could get infected on Sunday of wk3, not test positive or show symptoms all week, be infectious on Sunday of wk4, transmit the virus to the wk4 opponent, and then test positive sometime after that.

But if several Vikings got infected during their wk3 game, then it's very likely that at least 1 of them would test positive before the wk4 game. And the main scenario to be worried about is the one where several Vikings were infected.

So as long as there are no positive tests among the Vikings before Sunday's game, I think the risk of transmission from the Titans to the Vikings to the Texans is fairly low.

75 The general advice given to…

The general advice given to people exposed to someone who has COVID is to quarantine for 10-14 days. Playing a football game and potentially exposing a lot of other people is precisely not what you are supposed to do 7 days later. The NFL is foolish if they allow the Vikings to play. This is how you get a league-wide outbreak and ruin the season.

39 No fans make moving games easier

I hadn't thought about it until I saw the note about moving the game to Monday or Tuesday. The logistics of shifting when/where a game is played when you don't have to worry the in stadium fans is vastly simpler.

I know there have been some short shifts in the past mostly from blizzards or hurricanes and I seem to recall those involving refunded and or free tickets. My recall is that most make up games were weeks later though. That seems to supported by earlier comments about using bye weeks, etc.

Now a shift is just the teams, tv crews, and the minimal stadium staff. That does make it easier to say we'll just play a few days later to make sure all cases have been found and quarantined and risk of additional spread is minimized. Still not sure it's sustainable, but I hadn't thought about how that impacted things before. 

54 Some might say that the…

Some might say that the Titans should be punished simply by letting the game go on but without the players that they are missing. This sends a strong and clear message that you HAVE TO protect yourself and can not expose yourself while you're in the season.

With postponing the game the NFL, you might argue, sends a message that 'meh, go ahead and do whatever, there will be no real consequences'. Which is a very, very dangerous message to send, some might say.

But on the other hand. Imagine that the virus has spread to more Titans players - and now they have to play the Steelers. They would be potentially exposing the Steelers players to the virus. 

The NFL was really in a split here. You either continue and make it clear that "These are the rule, if you fail, that's up to you. The League continues without you." 

or

"We want to play a full season, we do everything we can to stop the spread".

Tough one.

 

Which makes me wonder. They can't test every Titans employee on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and only if you pass three tests, you're on the active roster / allowed to be on the sidelines? Is there no way to be sure, everyone is virus-free?

And on that note - I still see a whole bunch of people who don't seem to be with the team on the sidelines every game. Can't they get rid of those? 

56 I think the idea that "it's…

I think the idea that "it's the Titans'own fault" is just wrong. It might be the right message to send, maybe, but factually it's just wrong. The number of infected people "in the wild" is huge in Tennessee. Coaches (and players) have families and no one is suggesting that everyone a coach or player comes into contact with for half a year should be living in a bubble with no contact (school, work, etc).

If an outbreak happens because a player (or coach) decides to throw a huge party or whatever, then that's clearly different and additional punishment would be reasonable.

With regards to testing... Sure, they could test every employee every day. In fact they do that already, except on game day. The problem is that the last contact with a known infected individual was Monday. There's no definitive data on time from infection to testing positive (which isn't incubation period) and it's likely less than a week. The hospital my wife works at uses 4x24 hours, but with things like this it's always going to be a question of risk assessment.

So, yeah, if no one tested positive Sunday (results Monday), there's a very good chance the outbreak is contained. The economic consequences of being wrong are enormous, though, so the league has to err on the side of caution. Additionally, there's the risk of additional contact between the players recently testing positive and other members of the organization after the team facilities shut down (for non-treatment). Ideally, there shouldn't have been any and players were recommended to stay away from each other, but I don't know to what extent one can expect that to have been followed perfectly and the league tracking devices aren't used when players go home.

64 I agree completely. Look, if…

I agree completely. Look, if the NFL was concerned about the possibility of anyone contracting COVID-19, they wouldn't be playing right now. Or they would have tried to set up some type of bubble, as difficult as it would be. Absent evidence that the Titans were especially careless, punishing them for something that was almost certain to happen to at least one team is ridiculous. Very few regions of the United States have the virus under anything resembling control.

59 The solution is to make the…

The solution is to make the Titans forfeit.

That protects the Steelers and punishes the Titans. It also works for the NFLPA, because it counts as a game played and thus counts as a game check.

60 +1

This is correct - it is the only sustainable solution to this kind of incident (if we're not just going to let everybody be infected).

61 Rescheduling this time is…

Rescheduling this time is easy. But if one of the next times it becomes nearly impossible to reschedule and a forfeit is required then the fairness of the competition could be called into question. So maybe the easy answer was not the best one.

63 Strategy

The NHL/NBA seasons should be enough to convince everyone that postponement of the playoffs to "catch up" on games would have terrible consequences for the league. It's not the only reason that NBA TV revenue will be down massively, but I think it's pretty clear that it's a significant part of it.

65 At this point it seems…

At this point it seems likely that the Titans are the source of this outbreak.  What if 5* Vikings players end up testing positive tomorrow?  Should the Vikings be punished because they (apparently) were infected while playing against the Titans?  There is nothing the Vikings could do to limit their exposure during games.

 

I suppose each case could be evaluated separately to determine whether it is likely that infection happened due to lax precautions by players or teams.

 

* - which makes me wonder what threshold the NFL is using whether to just keep infected individuals away from games or postponing games.  When it was just the coach testing positive on Saturday, the Titans still played their game, but once the number hit 5(?), the plan was to delay the game one or two days and then when the number hit 7(?), they decided to postpone until week 7.

66 I'm surprised that, given so…

I'm surprised that, given so much of this - and of Roger's MO writ large - is make-up-as-you-go, that it doesn't appear that that "tipping point" was based more on who the players were.

 

In other words, as of now, Tanny and Derrick Henry remain COVID-free, with the positive tests being mostly less-important starters and special teamers/backups; and originally, I was basically expecting that the only way they wouldn't play this week was if those two, or Vrabel for that matter maybe, tested positive.

69 The Decision

It's because this is a decision to limit liability for the league from suits brought by the players/PA rather than a marketing decision. All the craziness we've seen from Roger in the past has been his view of how to best manage the PR of the league to maximize revenues (see Ray Rice for case in point). Now the Job is different - no one in the public really cares whether NFL players get COVID (except that the NFL has enough players that odds are someone will get seriously ill if they just let it run rampant) - but I'm sure the PA is licking it's chops at the chance to take a wet bite out of the owners pockets for creating an unsafe workspace (as little sense as any of that makes in the inherently unsafe workspace that is an NFL playing field).

71 True, none of the players'…

In reply to by sbond101

True, none of the players' associations are too keen on making exceptions for star players, and they are instead designed to help the rank-and-file players.

There will not be, for instance, a "LeBron COV1D GAME!!11!!" to go with the Jordan flu game.

On that note with the NFLPA, there were reports that this delay ran afoul of the official "must have 4 straight days off for a bye week" rule, although I would think that the Steelers would fulfill that by going Fr/Sa/Sun/Mon.

74 The house of cards...

So now Cam Newton... tested  positive, and KC-NE will not happen Sunday.   Also a ps qb for KC.