Two weeks after news first broke of a potential outbreak within the Titans organization, NFL’s Tennessee franchise continues to reside at the epicenter of the NFL’s COVID-19 crisis.
The league and the union already have investigated the Titans, sparking plenty of rumors regarding the findings. Whether it’s a supposedly blatant failure to wear masks or practice distancing in the building to the supposed presence of at least one coach at unsanctioned workouts during the shutdown of the facility to lingering questions about what the Titans knew and when they knew it before traveling to Minnesota to play the Vikings, there’s enough smoke to justify a conclusion that, eventually, the Titans will be facing hellfire from 345 Park Avenue.
It hasn’t happened yet, prompting some to wonder about the delay. If the partial goal when it comes to hammering Tennessee is to scare other teams straight, the sooner the punishment is announced, the better.
Possibly, the league wants to assess the full damage before crafting a final list of sanctions. If Tuesday night’s Bills-Titans game can’t be played, which would force the league to pull the eighteenth-week ripcord, things could get even worse for Tennessee.
It’s also possible the league wants to ensure that all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before going after the Titans, based on past cases (like Bountygate and Deflategate) that ended up being far from airtight.
Complicating matters is the fact the Tennessee outbreak may have been fueled by flaws in the testing system, including possible false positives and false negatives.
“Definitely the fact that we had guys with no symptoms testing positive and we had guys with full-blown symptoms getting consecutive negative tests on multiple days was really eye opening,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said over the weekend. “Just the fact of we really don’t know. . . . So we have to treat everyone as if they have the virus. Unfortunately, [we] really probably lost some faith in the testing system just through everything we’ve been through over the past week and a half. But we said that from the beginning that testing is not going to prevent the virus from being spread, it’s the way we handle ourselves with all the protocols and handle ourselves outside the building as well.”
He’s right. The overriding problem for the Titans and every other team continues to be that, as long as players and coaches and other essential personnel are residing within the community, they’re are risk for community spread. Positives can come from anywhere, with an outbreak in the facility just one of the ways it can happen.
Thus, before clobbering the Titans for their outbreak, it’s important for the league to show that the outbreak happened due to exposure inside, not outside, the building.