Titans receive another new positive COVID test result, facilities remain closed

Once again, I have bad news to pass along. The Titans had yet another player test positive for COVID this morning in addition to a re-test that confirmed the second positive from yesterday’s reports.

I find it pretty hard to believe that the Bills game happens at this point. New positive tests continue to roll in and the league has been waiting consecutive clean days before allowing the Titans to return to their facility. At this point, even if today’s tests come back with no new positives tomorrow morning, Tennessee likely wouldn’t be allowed in their facility prior to Saturday at the earliest, giving them no opportunity to practice prior to playing the Bills.

The league cannot simply push the game back to Monday as they did with Patriots-Chiefs last week because Buffalo plays the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football next week. That leaves the league with three options.

  1. Push forward and try to play the game as scheduled if test results come back all-negative on Friday and Saturday.
  2. Reschedule Titans-Bills for Week 18 and push the start of the playoffs back a week.
  3. Force the Titans to become the first team in the league’s 100-year history to forfeit a game.

One thing to consider with Option 3… that route would be wildly unfair to the Steelers, who had their bye week re-arranged and still have to play the Titans in Week 7. Why should the Bills — a team that could be competing with the Steelers for playoff spots or seeding — get a free W when the Steelers get inconvienced.

It’s possible that the league could retroactively give the Titans two forfeits, dropping them to 3-2 and picking the schedule back up as originally set with Houston in Week 6 and a bye in Week 7, but that would cost the NFL money and they don’t like that.

Who is on the reserve/COVID list?

The Titans currently have 12 total players on the reserve/COVID list:

  • LS Beau Brinkley
  • OLB Kamalei Correa
  • CB Kristian Fulton
  • WR Adam Humphries
  • WR Corey Davis
  • FB Khari Blasingame
  • DL DaQuan Jones
  • DL Jeffery Simmons
  • OL Isaiah Wilson
  • WR Cameron Batson*
  • TE Tommy Hudson*
  • CB Greg Mabin*

*practice squad

We will be adding two more names to that list this afternoon as the COVID cycle continues.

The Titans also have had 10 team personnel members test positive. Based on reports, we know that there are coaches included in that number beyond the one name we know out of this group: outside linebackers coach and defensive playcaller Shane Bowen.

We should note that Isaiah Wilson has officially been on the COVID list for a month now and is not included in this outbreak. It was sounding like he was nearing a return prior to the facility getting shut down last week.

When can infected players return?

I wrote at length about the return to play protocols that were agreed upon by the NFL and NFL Players Association last week and you can read that here. Essentially, the big variable is the presence of symptoms. Some people who get COVID-19 never demonstrate any actual symptoms — one of the reasons the virus has been so hard to track — and the players that fall into that category can return to practice once they pass three hurdles:

  1. At least five days have passed since initial positive test.
  2. Player produces two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
  3. Receive clearance from the team’s head physician.

The players that fall into the asymptomatic category would all have a chance to play against the Bills — even fullback Khari Blasingame, who tested positive on Saturday (reported on Sunday) — if they can clear the virus from their system. Of course, five days is the minimum so do not assume that asymptomatic means an automatic five-day return.

Players that do show symptoms have a longer road to return. Those players must clear all of the following criteria to return to the facilities:

  1. At least ten days have passed since symptoms appeared.
  2. At least 72 hours have passed since player last experience symptoms.
  3. Approval from team’s head physician.

And after returning to the facilities, players who exhibit symptoms must then pass through additional cardiac screening and a minimum three-day progressive exercise protocol before getting cleared to participate in a game.

That means that players with symptomatic cases will require at least 13 days to pass from the time they initially begin showing symptoms and their first game back. In some cases, symptoms do not show up until after a positive test so it’s entirely possible that we see players miss up to three or four weeks of action depending on timing of the positive test and when symptoms appear.

We do not know how many of the 11 recent cases are symptomatic versus asymptomatic and we likely will not know until guys start getting activated from the reserve/COVID list. We could see a few guys get added back onto the roster in time to play against Buffalo, but there is also a pretty decent chance that the Titans are without all 11. Mike Vrabel has said that the team is not expecting to have any of them on Sunday.

Comments

  1. I asked myself this morning, seeing all the hate from other fans and media, “is this what its like to be a Patriots fan?” Then I remembered they got 6 super bowls out of it, so the answer is……… no

    1. [Chuckle] Yeah, it’s so easy right now for people to be throwing stones at our players and the organization as a whole.

      And easy for the NFL to throw us under the bus while abstaining to take ownership of some of their own risky choices – like sending the Patriots to Kansas City after seeing the effects of close travel quarters on the Titans the week prior. If that were not a big money game for the NFL, they would have proceeded with more caution.

      Everyone is making rash decisions based upon livelihood concerns. From Fox Sports to the NFL to the Titans players who chose to gather informally at MBA or Belmont. A reframe is needed among all parties. And so is some earnest offering of grace toward one another for not knowing when/how to recalibrate amid such intensely competitive values. Especially some benefit of the doubt for things truly outside of the Titans’ control – like a newly signed free agent or a Minneapolis bus driver or an ill-fated flight plan bringing COVID to the team.

      1. Its painfully obvious that the Titans were doing something wrong, now having over 22 positives in less than two weeks. Other teams have had players test positive, but it stops there. These protocols are not just to prevent catching the virus, they are also to mitigate the spread. We look like morons.

        1. Sure. Something wrong. Something wrong that already bears significant ramifications.

          Ramifications like players having to play at less than full health even after they recover from this. And like having to forfeit games if we aren’t ready to go at game time.

          No one needs to be disrespected, though.

          I’m not trying to deny that the Titans bear some fault. But it is shortsighted to put all of the fault on them. There is plenty to go around.

          Learning together and growing should be the goal – not scapegoating.

  2. Maybe I’m just lame. But how much better off might the Titans be if we could just let go of the Steelers and Bills games, taking losses, get healthy as we can for the Texans in week 6, our original bye in week 7, and then come back fully healthy and ready to run the table in week 8 and following?

    1. Two forfeitures sucks for a lot of reasons. But it may be the best route to a successful season long term. Right now it just seems like we are backloading all kinds of stress and extra challenges into the back end of our season.

      I would rather try and overcome 4-2 (or even 3-3) fully healthy and ensure that we win the division than to stress over whether we secure home field over the Steelers or the Bills. After all, there is still a good chance that either or both of them land in the Wild Card scenario anyway by virtue of being in the same division with the Ravens and Pats respectively.

      The thing we don’t want is to hurt ourselves worse trying to win difficult games with unpracticed or medically cleared but not fully recovered players.

      And the thing we really don’t want is to be losing draft picks a a component of discipline handed down by the NFL.

      1. From the sense of season completion and fairness for all. Schedules should remain the same. If a team can’t travel for a game that can’t be fairly/easily moved to Monday or Tuesday at the latest, they forfeit. Titans unfortunately would currently be 3-1 and looking at 3-2 in a couple of days. It’s not ideal, but life in COVID season…

        1. I fully agree. The NFL can’t keep picking and choosing teams with flexibility to take on added challenges to account for teams unable to go at game time. It will breakdown at some point. Cut losses and move on. Just like when there’s a terrible injury or a bad judgement call in a game that cannot be overturned.

          1. I read an article from Lomas on TitanSized suggesting any missed games be considered a no-contest as opposed to a forfeit since teams shouldn’t be punished for an “act of God”. Thought that was an interesting way to conclude the season as scheduled. It would seem more fair if fault was not established, but other teams will then complain that no-contest games afforded an extra bye week…

            1. Extra bye week. Loss of game rep opportunities. Loss of opportunity to accumulate points for. Less liability for points against. Wonky win percentages. Difficulty in determining tie-breaker scenarios.

              Something about any situation you choose will be imperfect.

              I like the take, though. Could imagine a breakdown somewhere in that mix when it comes to making some of those fine-line playoff determinations if comparing the finished products of two different team’s scheduled starts to feel like comparing apples and oranges.

              Stepping back from the situation a little bit, after airing my frustrations that the NFL is all about money and pandering the the big markets rather than assessing these situations with some sort of universal integrity, I recognize that the CBA and player livelihood are directly tied to the NFL’s ability to charge money for these games and collect it from their various streams of revenue. So ultimately, if the NFL doesn’t make money, the teams and players don’t make money either.

              I think the thing that still bugs me most is what Hearndon wrote about in his Hypocrisy article released this afternoon. That pretty much sums it up. You don’t get to scapegoat the Titans when you helped create the bad situation for them. You can call for accountability and require discipline as a part of that. But there must be some form of ownership and accountability running the other direction as well. It can’t be just a week (or a season) of the NFL fostering derogatory comments our way for something that isn’t entirely our fault.

  3. You know it’s actually possible that both the Titans failed and that the ever-evolving NFL safety protocols failed. Impossible to know which cases are attributable to each fault. But ownership and humility are called for on both parts.

  4. How crazy would it be if the Titans had to forfeit vs. the Steelers and Bills but then turned around and went 14-2. That would be a fun asterisk to hold in the NFL record books ?

    Lots of fun conversations would follow with Dolphins fans if we went on to win the super Bowl after such a season outcome!

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