After two consecutive days of no positive tests, two Tennessee Titans tested positive on Wednesday, bringing the club's total to 20 cases among players and staff.
The club's game with Pittsburgh, scheduled for last Sunday, was already moved to Oct. 25, and now this Sunday's game with Buffalo appears in jeopardy -- with no more bye week mulligans left to play.
In response to Tennessee's outbreak and smaller outbreaks elsewhere in the league, the NFL threatened to make teams found in violations of COVID-19 protocols forfeit games.
“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,” Roger Goodell wrote in a league-wide memo.
“Simply put, compliance is mandatory. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to our protocols and best practices for the duration of the season.”
And now reporting has emerged that multiple Titans were spotted working out together at a Nashville private school.
Titans insider Paul Kuharsky published photos that appeared to show multiple Titans players working out together on the school's football field during school hours. The NFL and NFLPA are also investigating whether the Titans violated league protocol inside the building, according to ESPN. Writes Adam Schefter:
The investigation is focused on Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen being the first in the organization to contract the coronavirus, and a potential failure by at least some to report symptoms and wear masks. One source told ESPN that he suspects that the spread started with the Titans' coaching staff.
Bowen was exposed to individuals who had been exposed to the coronavirus, according to a source. NFL employees are required to report being around anyone who has contracted the coronavirus or to not go into work if they have been around those individuals.
If the NFL and NFLPA find that at least one member of the Titans didn't properly report being around someone or others with the coronavirus, it would be a violation.
On the one hand, it's hard, bordering on unrealistic, to expect Titans players to isolate in their homes and remain in game shape at the same time. Are players expected to find their own spaces to lift and run? Is Ryan Tannehill supposed to throw to himself?
From the NFL's perspective, though, the Titans episode could show the non-bubble arrangement wasn't the reason for the outbreak, but the failure to follow the NFL's protocols. And if that's the case, expect the league office to make an example out of the Titans.