The Titans-Steelers Week 4 matchup is officially off for this weekend after two more positive COVID tests were revealed in Tennessee, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
This now brings us to 12 confirmed positive tests in the past week for the Titans. Here is the information that we know about those tests:
- Seven are non-player personnel and that number includes multiple coaches, though it doesn’t mean that all seven are coaches.
- Outside linebackers coach and defensive playcaller Shane Bowen is the only non-player that is confirmed to have been among that seven.
- Five are players, and we know that includes DL DaQuan Jones, LS Beau Brinkley, OLB Kamalei Correa, and practice squad TE Tommy Hudson.
- We will find out the fifth player later today when the transaction wire comes out (around 3:00 p.m. CT).
- We know that at least one player and one non-player were symptomatic. Most of the others are believed to be asymptomatic at this point.
Whether a person if symptomatic or asymptomatic impacts the return protocol from the NFL.
Bowen tested positive on Saturday, prior to the Titans trip to Minnesota and was left at home as a result. However, the entire roster and rest of the coaching staff tested negative Saturday. After returning on Monday the Titans began their regular testing regimen and found eight positives on Tuesday — the first day they were allowed back at the facility by league rules — and immediately sent everyone home as a result.
So was Bowen “patient zero” for this outbreak? Possibly, but there is at least one other potential option that Paul Kuharsky mentioned this morning in practice squad defensive back Greg Mabin.
However, assigning blame for this situation is ultimately an impossible task. Despite being extremely careful with protocols, this was bound to happen at some point with a non-bubble set up. We saw it in Major League Baseball with the Marlins and Cardinals.
Players and coaches are home with their families every night and those family members are still going through their own lives. Some children are in school and could easily pick up the disease there and bring it home to their parents. Yes, the Titans are currently the only team to deal with this issue in the NFL, but I’d be pretty shocked if they’re the last.
Over the past two days, the facility has been disinfected and deep cleaned as the team performed contact tracing and continued testing to determine the extent of the outbreak. Given the incubation period for the disease, it is normal for positive tests to be delayed by a few days from the point of actually contracting COVID-19.
The hope, obviously, is that the positive tests found this morning are the end of it, but there are no guarantees that will be the case and that is why the league ultimately had to move this game.
The best option for rescheduling seems to be a Week 7 Titans-Steelers matchup. That would essentially make Week 4 the bye week for both Tennessee and Pittsburgh and it would move the Steelers-Ravens game currently scheduled for Week 7 to Week 8 (originally scheduled to be the bye week for both of those teams). The Ravens bye moves up one week to Week 7.
The other option is to tack on a “make up week” at the end of the schedule and push back the start of the playoffs. If the NFL wants to keep the Super Bowl as currently scheduled on February 7th, they could simply eliminate the off week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
If I’m right — and I hope I’m not — and this sort of event happens to multiple teams throughout the season, having a Week 18 make up week could be a good idea to go ahead and start planning now.
The good news, if you want to take any silver lining out of this terrible situation, is that the Titans will likely avoid another missed game for star wide receiver A.J. Brown due to this game getting postponed, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
It also seems likely that left tackle Taylor Lewan — who suffered a shoulder injury against the Vikings — will return before the Week 5 game against the Bills. There is even a chance that top corner Adoree’ Jackson makes his 2020 debut.
There is at least a chance that the COVID-positive players could return before the Bills game as well, but that is far more variable based on their body’s fight against the virus.
We will provide an update with the decision from the NFL about when the Titans and Steelers will eventually play once that news comes down.