Will Titans be forced to forfeit their Week Five game against the Bills?

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Earlier this week, the Commissioner informed teams that outbreaks caused by team failure to follow COVID-19 protocols could result in a game being forfeited. With the Titans, who apparently have committed multiple protocol breaches, potentially forced to miss a second straight game, a forfeit could be an option.

Judy Battista of NFL Media reports that, as of Wednesday afternoon, a forfeit hadn’t been discussed. Now that the Titans have yet another player who has generated a positive COVID-19 result only three days before kickoff, that could change.

A forfeit would raise plenty of questions. Would CBS be entitled to a partial refund, since it didn’t get to televise one of the games that it has paid to broadcast? More importantly, would the Bills and/or the Titans players be paid?

Some have suggested that the players already have agreed to not be paid for games not played. The language of the August 3 letter agreement, however, mentions only games that are “cancelled or suspended” and that aren’t played later in the year. The NFL Players Association could, and should, argue that the players have not agreed to surrender game checks in the event of a forfeit.

Indeed, the official rulebook contemplates the possibility of a forfeit, providing in Rule 11, Section 1, Article 1 that the final score of a forfeited game will be 2-0. In a normal year, no one ever would suggest that players shouldn’t be paid for a forfeited game. So why would they not be paid for a forfeit in 2020, especially when the agreement allowing the league to withhold pay for games “cancelled or suspended” does not expressly include forfeits, which necessarily are different from a cancellation or suspension, because a forfeited game goes into the standings with a winner and a loser?

The possibility that the Bills and Titans will owe game checks to players becomes a very good a reason to not declare a forfeit. And if it comes to that, the financial punishment imposed on the Titans should include making their own payroll for the week, along with Buffalo’s.

Absent a forfeit, the league has a mess on its hands. Since the Titans had an unscheduled bye in Week Four, there’s no open week for Tennessee to play the game later in the year. Moving the game to Monday isn’t an option, since the Bills play the Chiefs next Thursday night.

62 responses to “Will Titans be forced to forfeit their Week Five game against the Bills?

  1. They should be… the whole season could be ruined and it all lays at the feet of the Titans.

  2. At first I thought they shouldn’t be paid until I realized “they” also includes Buffalo. Of course the team who may have to forfeit because they blatantly broke protocol shouldn’t be paid their wages, but Buffalo didn’t do anything. They’ve been preparing as usual to put in a week’s work. They have earned their money; it’s not their fault if they can’t play. It’s nothing but downside to be given a W due to forfeiture. Fans will have to constantly justify it, trash talkers will continuously try to place an asterisk on the season if the Bills accomplish anything, the locker room will feel sheepish, and even for tanking teams, a W can be damaging to their plans. One possible silver lining in this particular case: If the Bills beat the Chiefs come Thursday, no one will be questioning whether they’d have beaten the Titans. Pressure is on in myriad ways

  3. If I were the NFL and the team owner and didn’t want to pay the players for a forfeited game, I would argue that the game was CANCELED, resulting in a FORFEIT. But that’s just the lawyer in me.

  4. Make sure they give up their game checks too. Maybe that will FINALLY get them to take protocols seriously.

  5. This is a flipping mess. If it hasn’t happened already, the season needs to have an asterisk…which is sad.

    If games are forfeited, this provides an unfair advantage to the opposing team (in this case, the Bills). Not only will they have another bye week, they are also the recipent of a “win” they did not earn. This has ramifications to other teams in the division and conference. Could this be a major factor of the Bills being the top seed down the stretch?

  6. “Would CBS be entitled to a partial refund, since it didn’t get to televise one of the games that it has paid to broadcast?”
    _____________

    The networks don’t get a refund when blackout rules keep games from being shown in some markets nor do they get money back when they deem a matchup to be inferior and decide not to show it most places. If a forfeiture does happen they’d just show a different game in that region.

  7. Might generate some internal policing by members who have been in compliance with guidelines vs those who have not. Hopefully the majority have been in compliance.

  8. Why not move this game to Monday or Tuesday, and move the Bills’s Thursday game next week to Saturday?

  9. They cant start flexing all Thurs games? Why is that set in stone? It isnt later in the season right?

  10. If it is found that they egregiously violated safety protocols…they should forfeit the entire season (even the games they played) and be last in the drafting order. If it is not egregious.,.then obviously that punishment is too severe, but some punishment should be due as it places the ENTIRE season at risk.

  11. Timeline wise it sounds like the players may skate on a technicality. They held this workout on 9/30 but weren’t told by anyone, including the league, not to gather until after that. It was still incredibly stupid but somewhat understandable. At that point they still believed they had a game to get ready for. Still, this **** has snowballed and I wish they would have been smarter about it. At this point I don’t see any other option that to just forfeit the game. There is no way it’s being played anyway so let’s stop messing up the schedule. And even it was played we would have sooo many players missing it wouldn’t even be a contest. It would get ugly real quick I think.

  12. One thing here — if a team forfeits a game, the team who gets the win is rewarded with a win and has an extra week to rest guys and then play their next opponent, which is totally unfair to their next opponent.
    That is a huge advantage for the team which gets the forfeited win. Rather than see that happen, I’d be in favor of lengthening the season so that these games could be made up later on.
    I see no problem with playing until March or even April if necessary to get these games and the whole season played. If the other sports have a problem with it, too bad. The NFL should only worry about the NFL.
    The fact is, the NFL must be willing to do whatever it takes to get these games played so that there is a level playing field for every team. After all, we all know this season is an unprecedented, wacky season.

  13. They should have to forfeit any games they cant participate in because of the protocols they broke. It’s nobody’s fault except theirs. I have no sympathy for them in this case – if it was accidental sure, but not the case here. It really is too bad as TEN is a good team, fairly entertaining to watch. Game vs Bills would have been a good one. You reap what you sew.

  14. Fill up the Monday night schedule and move both the Titans Bills and Chiefs Bills games to those slots.

  15. “Why not move this game to Monday or Tuesday, and move the Bills’ Thursday game next week to Saturday?”

    The NFL can not play games on Saturday due to the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. They can only play games after the college football season has ended.

  16. I wonder if they can suspend all of the Texans players for violating the Covid-19 rules. That would solve that. They should at least suspend those who disobeyed the command to not practice. That would cost them game checks. Whether you like Goodell or not, he’s the one in charge and when he tells clubs to do something they need to do it. If the owners don’t like it they can vote him out next time but he was selected by the owners. I don’t see what the big deal is…they are trying to save the season by doing these things and for the Titans to practice like they did there needs to be some severe consequences.

  17. A more interesting question is: how many repeats of this would it take to reach the tipping point of pulling the plug on the whole season? Seems like it wouldn’t take many to become completely unmanageable.

  18. Forfeiting should be what happens here. Yes the Bills would get a break, but it is due to injury/illness of another team. Teams lose games when their lineup isn’t healthy, it happens.

    Football is not Baseball and you just can’t makeup games at will.

    Give Buffalo the W so the Titans don’t risk spread beyond their own team and risk the entire year not being completed. Those are the breaks in 2020

  19. Shouldnt be a forfeit. Make the Titans play on Sunday as scheduled. Keep the players who arent infected in bubbles, and players that tested positive AND players that ILLEGALLY organized are banned from the game.

    Play on a neutral site, because no one wants to play in that infected stadium.

  20. realisticlionsfan says:
    October 8, 2020 at 10:14 am
    Why not move this game to Monday or Tuesday, and move the Bills’s Thursday game next week to Saturday?

    —————————

    College conflict. I don’t see why they can’t flex it to a Monday night prime time, though

  21. The Bills game checks should come from the Titans. Any advantage for the Bills comes directly from the Titans.

  22. There were legal battles after BountyGate, Bullygate and Deflategate, it seems this would trigger one also.

    I’m not saying the Titans didn’t do anything wrong, but there’s been lots of breaches of Covid protocol (Raiders, coaches yelling at refs with masks off etc) but this one happened to trigger an outbreak. The NFL sanctioned the NE-KC game Monday, knowing both teams had a recent positive etc..

    I think the NFL needs to prove really systematic and serious violations, in which case forfeiting a game could be the correct move.

  23. If the NFL says the Bills players don’t get paid for a forfeited game, is there anything stopping the team from giving them paychecks anyway? Call it a bonus if they have to. It wouldn’t put them over the salary cap, so I don’t see how the league could punish them for it.

  24. What does one or two players have to do with the entire team?

    If they have 50 players test negative multiple times why can’t they play? Isn’t this what free agents and the practice squad are for?

  25. They should also forfeit a win to the Steelers and everyone gets back to a normal schedule. If you cannot field a team you forfeit. End of story.

  26. Make the Titans forfeit and give the Bills the W. PAYBACK FOR THE MUSIC CITY MIRACLE 20 YEARS AGO!

  27. If the Bills beat the Chiefs come Thursday, no one will be questioning whether they’d have beaten the Titans. Pressure is on in myriad ways

    *****************************************************************************************************************************
    Not fast…

    If the Titans v Bills game is cancelled, the Bills will play the Chiefs on 10 days rest, while the Chiefs will have only had four days off between games. This gives the Bills a tremendous competitive advantage. While I would love to see the Bills beat the Chiefs,
    EVERYONE would question THAT Bills win because a well rested team would be playing a team with only four days rest…

  28. No matter what happens with the Titans I sure hope the league doesn’t punish Buffalo by moving the game to Monday or forcing them to cover the expense of a forfeit… They followed all protocols and did what they were supposed to do. The Titans should be forced to pay both game checks in this situation… they are the issue here.

  29. bobcobb301 says:
    October 8, 2020 at 10:49 am
    What does one or two players have to do with the entire team?

    If they have 50 players test negative multiple times why can’t they play? Isn’t this what free agents and the practice squad are for?

    ——

    I would assume because the league believes that additionally players who were exposed will be testing positive as a result of the exposure in the days to come

  30. Any thought of a forfeit is ridiculous because it’s completely unfair to so many other teams. Play the game with the players you have. No Vikings were infected by the Titans last week so I don’t think the Bills are in any particular “danger.” The only way a forfeit might make sense is if a franchise has so many infected players that they can’t field a legitimate team and would surely lose if the game were played anyway. That’s not the case here. It makes no sense to use a forfeit as a form of punishment.

  31. There is an equitable solution that isn’t in the rulebook, unfortunately. The Titans forfeit the game and are credited with a loss, but the Bills are not credited with a win. There are already plans to deal with a schedule with an unbalanced number of games, and postseason positions are actually determined by winning percentage (you know, tie games), not number of wins. The Bills do get an extra week off, but there is no perfect solution here.

  32. That’s a slippery slope because there is no way the league would treat all 32 teams equally. There “favorites” would be given more leeway….

  33. Shouldnt be a forfeit. Make the Titans play on Sunday as scheduled. Keep the players who arent infected in bubbles, and players that tested positive AND players that ILLEGALLY organized are banned from the game.

    Play on a neutral site, because no one wants to play in that infected stadium.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________

    It’s like you dont understand the concept of the virus – which seems like a lot of the US does not. You need to be quarantined for 14 days with no sypmtoms to make sure you don’t spread it to others. I understand these guys get tested almost daily, but I wouldnt call the tests that great so far in general, a lot of false positives etc. Either you start moving games around (which is only feasible for a little bit, if a few more teams get like this, wont even matter) or they forfeit and stay bubbled.

  34. They have already said there will be no forfeit. I heard they may move the payoffs and Super Bowl back a week if need be

  35. Wonder how many people commenting here about how NFL players aren’t following the rules etc, are the same people complaining about wearing masks and refusing to following distancing guidelines at bars and restaurants?

  36. chicagocoltsfan says:
    October 8, 2020 at 10:06 am
    If I were the NFL and the team owner and didn’t want to pay the players for a forfeited game, I would argue that the game was CANCELED, resulting in a FORFEIT. But that’s just the lawyer in me.

    ————-

    Works on contingency?

    No, money down!

  37. orangecrush78 says:
    October 8, 2020 at 11:12 am
    Shouldnt be a forfeit. Make the Titans play on Sunday as scheduled. Keep the players who arent infected in bubbles, and players that tested positive AND players that ILLEGALLY organized are banned from the game.

    Play on a neutral site, because no one wants to play in that infected stadium.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________

    It’s like you dont understand the concept of the virus – which seems like a lot of the US does not. You need to be quarantined for 14 days with no sypmtoms to make sure you don’t spread it to others. I understand these guys get tested almost daily, but I wouldnt call the tests that great so far in general, a lot of false positives etc. Either you start moving games around (which is only feasible for a little bit, if a few more teams get like this, wont even matter) or they forfeit and stay bubbled.
    ————————————————-

    You do not need to stay quarantined for 14 days IF you are being tested daily.

  38. If indeed they blatantly defied orders, forfeits, stripping of draft choices and forfeiting of even team ownership are all 8n order. I don’t care what’s fair or unfair. Bud Adams had no problem abandoning Houston to make more money way back when. This goes beyond football and should be dealt with severly

  39. The league at its best now they will forfeit yet the Steelers lose their bye, schedule changes and we should not shake our heads at the league office

  40. They need to stop testing…you know like the professionals in college.
    Realistically, you have to make this up at the end of the season. There will be plenty of games that will fall into that bin. Its either that or let each team have a larger back of pool players they can pull from and make them play without practicing beforehand.

  41. noccrit says:
    October 8, 2020 at 11:05 am

    There is an equitable solution that isn’t in the rulebook, unfortunately. The Titans forfeit the game and are credited with a loss, but the Bills are not credited with a win. There are already plans to deal with a schedule with an unbalanced number of games, and postseason positions are actually determined by winning percentage (you know, tie games), not number of wins. The Bills do get an extra week off, but there is no perfect solution here.
    ________________

    So let’s say the Patriots beat the Bills twice and finish with a record of 11-5. The Bills play one fewer game and finish 11-4. So the Bills win the division because of a better winning percentage? What’s equitable about that? When you only have 16 games, taking one game away makes a huge difference.

  42. The NFL should issue a terse, briefly worded statement so that fans don’t get lost in it essentially saying “This merits a forfeit and a loss of draft picks. To those who will argue that football is inherently dangerous, that is a risk to the life of the player that chooses to risk it, but by breaking quarantine, they have endangered the lives of others outside the football community. We recognize that CTE and other lingering effects of playing the game endanger the health and lives of willing participants. However, this breach of protocol exposes those who had or have nothing to do with the game to serious, life threatening danger, and this is impermissible.”
    Simple as that. It was a dangerous situation that the team made worse, and they should be punished for it, knowing that they exposed others to it unwillingly. It goes beyond politics, beyond fandom, beyond ‘What does the NFL do this year’, The Titans may, possibly, have exposed some fraction of a community not involved with football to this illness by negligence. And that is wrong-doing.

  43. ———————-

    yessams says:
    October 8, 2020 at 10:10 am

    This is a flipping mess. If it hasn’t happened already, the season needs to have an asterisk…which is sad.

    If games are forfeited, this provides an unfair advantage to the opposing team (in this case, the Bills). Not only will they have another bye week, they are also the recipent of a “win” they did not earn. This has ramifications to other teams in the division and conference. Could this be a major factor of the Bills being the top seed down the stretch?
    —————————
    The Bills did not have a ‘bye’ week, they have been practicing and working to play this weekend.

  44. They have enough healthy players, they should play. However, they should be docked a draft pick, if all the allegations are proven to be true. If the players practiced while being told not to by the coach, they should all be fined a full games salary. If the coaches told them, the team should be docked a 1st rounder and the coaches should be fined heavily.

  45. The NFL should also give the Titans a forfeit for week 4, and return the week 7 bye to the Steelers – allowing them to keep pace in the AFC North standings. It’s bogus that the NFL allows the Steelers to get the shaft for doing absolutely nothing wrong!

  46. If the league can prove they’ve been reckless, and it sounds pretty obvious that they have, then that’s what they should do… It would be throwing the gauntlet down to the rest of the league about what can happen if people are reckless… From what I’ve read, the Titans seem like they have handled this as badly as humanly possible.

  47. “The Bills did not have a ‘bye’ week, they have been practicing and working to play this weekend.”
    _____________

    It’s still a week without any game which means guys are getting healthy and they could spend the whole weekend getting a jump start on preparations for the next week. (And practices leading up to a game are not typically very taxing.) It effectively is a bye, only they’d receive a W for it. And that’d be a huge advantage to any team, either in qualifying or locking up home games in the playoffs.

  48. “You do not need to stay quarantined for 14 days IF you are being tested daily.”

    Yes, you do. Anyone that tests positive and/or shows symptoms, needs to be isolated for 14 days. Those are the rules and they are based on science.

  49. Only Goodell knows if the game will be cancelled, but I already benched my Bills D/ST and picked up the Cardinals just in case.

  50. At this point, they have 2 options. Either move it to the end of the year and give every playoff team a week bye and the #1 seed a two week bye. This game should only be played if there is something at stake. If the game affects nothing, then it shouldn’t be played.

    The other option is giving the Titans a forfeit for their blatant disregard of proper protocol. It’s not asking too much for the players to bubble themselves as much as possible and if there is a positive test, stay away from one another. You could be using Zoom to game plan and watch film of the next opponent. Plenty could be accomplished without being on the field. At this point the Titans are throwing a wrench into the whole season by not following the protocol. Therefore, the forfeit would probably be the best option.

  51. Play Titans/Bills on Monday or even Tuesday next week, still considered a week #5 game. Move Bills/Chiefs to the following Monday, still considered a week #6 game. As penalty make Titans still play their following week #6 game on Sunday.

  52. donttouchjimmy says:
    October 8, 2020 at 1:25 pm
    Play Titans/Bills on Monday or even Tuesday next week, still considered a week #5 game. Move Bills/Chiefs to the following Monday, still considered a week #6 game. As penalty make Titans still play their following week #6 game on Sunday.

    —–

    I get a kick out of you people who believe you have solved the problem by rescheduling a few games for this week. What are you going to do with players on teams testing positive almost every week for the next four months?

    The league need to come up with a uniform proposal that is enforced each week from here on out. Something like:

    – If one team has COvid positive players, that team forfeits the game
    – If both teams have Covid positive player, both teams are awarded a tie
    – If no teams have Covid positive players, play the game as scheduled

  53. Forfeit the game and make the Titans give their game checks to the Bills players. Boom. Problem solved!

  54. With so many Titans players affected, would you want to play against them if you are on the Bills?

    So far, teams and players have been lucky. There have only been a couple of reports of players with mild symptoms. No player has had to be hospitalized.

    Of course, if the players are positive, they could then spread it to their families.

    They broke the rules with the practices, but the NFL should have the punishments defined AHEAd OF TIME,NOT AFTERWARDS.

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