The Tennessee Titans have closed their facilities until Saturday after three players and five team personnel members tested positive for the coronavirus, the NFL announced Tuesday.
While no official decision has yet been made about the Titans’ game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Nashville, the NFL wants and intends to have that game played as scheduled, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. One of the contingency plans to allow for additional testing and contact tracing to occur would be to move the game to Monday night.
“This is not unexpected,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote Tuesday to the chief executives and presidents for every team in a memo, which was obtained by ESPN. “There will be players and staff who will test positive during the season.”
The Titans, citing an “abundance of caution,” issued a statement saying they halted in-person work Tuesday. The Minnesota Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday, also have closed their facility indefinitely, though the team said there were no positive tests through Tuesday morning.
League contact tracing identified 48 close contacts with the eight members of the Titans organization who tested positive, sources told ESPN.
The NFL issued a statement saying both the Titans and Vikings are working with the league and the NFLPA and medical officials “to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments … with health and safety as our primary consideration.”
Team sources confirmed to ESPN that the Titans will prepare for this week’s game primarily through virtual film study meetings. The Steelers also issued a statement saying they’ve been in contact with the NFL about the Titans’ positive tests.
“We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday’s game until we are informed otherwise,” the Steelers’ statement said. “We will provide more information when available.”
The Vikings’ next game is Sunday at the Houston Texans. Goodell’s memo said all players and staff who have tested positive will be isolated and monitored, and their family members will also be offered testing as well. In addition, the referees who worked Sunday’s game also will be tested and monitored.
“Each of us has a special responsibility to keep others safe and healthy,” Goodell said in the memo. “What each of us does affects not only ourselves and our immediate families, but many others on our own club and on other clubs.”
The NFL said it is “exploring in more detail” where contacts were made — “locker room, flights, etc.” — in hopes of sharing any learned information with all teams.
The Titans were without outside linebackers coach and defensive play caller Shane Bowen for Sunday’s game against the Vikings because of the COVID-19 protocol. Bowen was placed in protocol after getting test results back Saturday before the team left for Minnesota.
The team was already without offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, who was placed into the COVID-19 protocol earlier this month. Coach Mike Vrabel had said he hoped Wilson could return to the practice field this week.
Players who test positive for COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic can return 10 days after the test or after five days with two consecutive negative tests within a five-day period. Those who show symptoms can return 10 days after the symptoms first appear and 72 hours have passed since any symptoms have ended.
All players who test positive must be cleared by the team’s physician and undergo cardiac testing.
Teams are able to conduct contact tracing by way of a small PPE device that is worn by players and team personnel. Anyone who was in contact with those that tested positive will have additional testing available to them.