Understanding the NFL’s COVID protocols and when infected Titans may be cleared to return

The COVID outbreak within the Tennessee Titans organization is still ongoing as two more players tested positive Friday morning, bringing the total numbers to seven players and seven non-player staff members. The names that we know to this point are:

  • OLB coach Shane Bowen (tested positive Saturday)
  • DL DaQuan Jones (Tuesday)
  • LS Beau Brinkley (Tuesday)
  • TE Tommy Hudson (Tuesday)
  • OLB Kamalei Correa (Wednesday)
  • CB Kristian Fulton (Thursday)

Two more players tested positive on Friday and this afternoon’s transaction wire should reveal who those players are. In addition to the seven players who tested positive this week, the Titans still have offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson and practice squad defensive back Greg Mabin on the reserve/COVID list.

John Glennon did a great job of breaking down how the COVID outbreak may have landed in the Titans locker room and the candidates for a potential Patient Zero yesterday and you can check that out here. The NFL and NFLPA are in Nashville today to review the situation, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

What comes out of that review will be interesting. If the Titans are found to have followed the protocols set forth by the league, we may see some changes to those protocols to prevent similar outbreaks across the league. If the Titans are found to have been non-compliant with protocols, I’d imagine the NFL will hammer them with fines, suspensions, and maybe even dock draft picks.

We’ve already seen the league release supplemental measures for teams who experience an outbreak and the terms of this memo will now apply to the Titans until further notice.

Potential punishment aside, we are now just nine days away from Titans-Bills and positive tests are still rolling in. What needs to happen for that game to be played on schedule and will some of these infected players be able to return to play?

The biggest thing that must happen is a stop to new positive tests. The Titans have had new positives for four straight days, but given that the facility was closed on Tuesday morning and players and coaches should be self-isolating at home right now, the end of the typical five day incubation period should be approaching. In theory — if everyone is doing what they should be — that should bring a close to the new positive cases over the weekend.

If the Titans can get a couple days of all-negative results, the NFL would likely consider letting the healthy players and coaches return to the facility and start getting back to work. That makes the results from Saturday and Sunday critical to the chances of the Titans having a “normal” week of preparation for the Bills.

As for the availability of players who have tested positive… the good news is that there is a chance the Titans might get some of these guys back for the Buffalo game. The NFL’s protocol differentiates between symptomatic and asymptomatic cases when it comes to the timeline to return to facilities.

According to the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, one Titans player and one Titans staff member have demonstrated symptoms to this point.

We don’t know who those symptomatic people are, but their return to play will require at least ten days to pass from the time that symptoms appear and three days clear of symptoms before they can return to the facility. However, that is not the final step in being cleared to play in an actual game.

Players with symptomatic cases must also complete a minimum three day progressive exercise protocol.

That makes the total timeline from a positive, symptomatic test to return to play a minimum of 13 days and means that the Titans player who is experiencing symptoms will not be available for the game against the Bills. Again, we do not know who that is at this time.

The asymptomatic cases, on the other hand, should have a chance to play against Buffalo next Sunday, even the two that tested positive Friday morning. As long as it has been at least five days since the initial positive test and the player can produce two consecutive negative tests, they can return to the facility and get back to work.

It’s worth noting that Dr. Sills’ comments about the one symptomatic player and one symptomatic staff member were made with regards to the original eight positive tests (three players, five staff), so it’s possible that Correa or Fulton could be symptomatic on top of whichever of the Jones-Brinkley-Hudson group showed symptoms.

We should also state that being asymptomatic does not guarantee a five-day return to the facilities. That’s simply the minimum turnaround time possible. How long the virus remains in the player’s system will determine when they can start producing negative tests and that could vary from person to person.

So while there is a chance that the Titans could get some of these players back in time for their Week 5 matchup with Buffalo, we know that at least one will miss the game and there is certainly a chance that more wind up falling into that category. Hopefully, the positive tests stop rolling in and the Titans can get the healthy players back in the facility next Tuesday for a “normal” week of practice under the new, more stringent guidelines from the league.

Author: Mike HerndonAfter over 20 years of annoying his family and friends with constant commentary about the Titans, Mike started writing down his thoughts in 2017 for Music City Miracles. He loves to dive into the All-22 tape and highlight the nuanced details that win and lose football games. You can now find his tape breakdowns and Anthony Firkser love letters at Broadway Sports. Mike also spends time laughing at Lebowski and yelling at Zach on the Football and Other F Words Podcast.


  1. I’m not as concerned with when they can come back as how they will be performance wise when they do come back. it affects everyone very differently, but i have a couple buddies in the military that were running sub 13 minute two-miles, but they got it and despite saying it was a milder case for both of them, they are struggling to finish the two miles under 16 minutes now, months later. It is showing to have longer lasting effects than originally thought, especially in athletes.

    1. Very interesting. I hadn’t heard that, but yeah, that would seem to be a major concern for these guys as the season wears on. Being without Jones and Fulton for one game would be rough, but being without them at their normal levels for the rest of the year would be brutal for this defense.

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