Last week, the NFL was sending strong messages to other teams that the boom would be lowered on the Titans for the outbreak that wiped out their Week Four game against the Steelers and that endangered their Week Five game against the Bills. This week, a different vibe is emerging.
Some think the Titans won’t get punished at all.
It would be a stunning turn of events, given the extent to which the league privately huffed and puffed to multiple teams about the plans to meting out discipline to the Titans. Currently, there’s a belief in certain circles that the league will simply not take action, time will pass, other issues will emerge, and the issue of Tennessee punishment will be forgotten.
Monday’s remarks from G.M. Jon Robinson hint at why, at the end of the day, the Titans could skate. Every team has had irregularities when it comes to compliance with the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The Titans have had the worst outbreak; however, unless some sort of connection can be proven between non-compliance and in-house spread, it’s hard to blame the Titans.
The league’s approach continues to be accepting that players and other personnel will catch the virus away from the building, while also trying to keep it from spreading at work. Without more details and full transparency as to contact tracing and other factors, maybe the Titans’ failure to completely follow the protocols contributed to the spread, and maybe it didn’t.
But here’s the thing: If all (or at least most) teams have failed to follow the protocols entirely, why should the Titans be punished for bad luck? If Commissioner Roger Goodell learned nothing else from the Saints’ bounty scandal, he should have learned (in the arbitration ruling issued by his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue) that cultural problems aren’t solved by hammering one team at a time when many are guilty of the same behavior.
So maybe last week’s private comments about the plans to hammer the Titans were aimed at scaring everyone straight, and maybe the league will decide not to pick a fight that eventually could prove that the Titans were doing things no different than other teams. Which in turn would create a major in-season mess that, given the bigger issues presented by the pandemic, the league doesn’t want or need.