The Tennessee Titans COVID-19 outbreak is presenting a serious issue for the NFL. The team already had its Week 4 game with the Pittsburgh Steelers moved, forcing a change in the schedule of those franchises and the Baltimore Ravens, who the Steelers will now face during what was their Week 8 bye.
New Tennessee Titans continue to test positive for the virus. It has thrown the team’s Week 5 game against the Buffalo Bills into serious question, without another bye week or other obviously scheduling adjustment for the league to make. The NFL certainly deserves some blame for not taking this possibility into account with its plan to move forward without bubbles, and now the league is scrambling to figure out how to handle things.
As it continues to add to its COVID-19 protocols, the NFL can now hand teams forfeit losses if they are determined to have violated protocols in leading to an outbreak. The Titans allegedly held an off-site workout after the initial wave of positive cases within the franchise, which may have led to the consequent positive tests.
However, because the rule comes after the Titans’ first positive tests, it doesn’t sound like they are at risk of having to forfeit their Week 5 game as retroactive punishment. NFL.com columnist Judy Battista has confirmed as much.
Was told by a source that a forfeit has not been part of the conversation about the Titans situation. https://t.co/qlkmFDWuA7
— Judy Battista (@judybattista) October 7, 2020
It would definitely be unfair to make the Titans forfeit a game due to a rule implemented after the fact, even if the team may have made a really terrible decision to workout amid an outbreak. It is unclear where the NFL goes from here though.
Removing the game from the schedule wouldn’t be terribly fair either, especially with the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills both in major playoff contention.
Hopefully the league can figure out an amicable solution here, and more importantly, figure out how to better keep players safe as COVID rates spike in many NFL cities.