NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A fresh round of positive tests have already caused two more games to be postponed and more could be coming as the NFL schedule continues to be shuffled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
New England’s Week 5 game against the Denver Broncos was moved to next Sunday, Oct. 18.
The Tennessee Titans were the first NFL team to experience a COVID-19 outbreak. Their number of positive tests is now up to 24 after a staff member tested positive on Sunday. The Titans maintain they have adhered to NFL/NFLPA protocols and procedures.
Contact tracing was initiated as soon as positive tests were received, according to Titans coach Mike Vrabel. Players and select team employees wear a proximity recording device that tracks interaction with others who wear the device. Anyone who was in close proximity to a person who tests positive is subjected to multiple tests. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus incubation period can last up to 14 days. An infected person can be contagious up to 72 hours before they even begin showing symptoms.
While the Titans were the first team to be affected, they weren’t the last. Here is a timeline of how everything has unfolded for the Titans and the NFL as more teams are receiving positive tests.
Thursday, Sept. 24: Titans defensive back Greg Mabin tests positive. Mabin was removed from the team facility after receiving a positive test, according to Vrabel. He was placed immediately into the protocol.
Added Vrabel: “When he tested positive, he was removed from the building. He was quarantined, and those individuals that were close contacts with him were also retested and went through their protocol as well.”
The Titans signed Mabin to their practice squad on Sept. 21 to add depth. There are new procedures for bringing in a free agent due to the pandemic.
Outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen didn’t make the trip to Minnesota after testing positive for the coronavirus. George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP, Pool
“When you try players out, they go through a process of testing and quarantine before you work them out, and then when you work them out, you decide to sign them or not, and then they’re into the testing protocol,” Vrabel said Thursday. “At that point in time, when he tested positive, we went through and followed the protocol and he was removed from the facility.”
Saturday, Sept. 26: Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen tests positive. The Titans received Bowen’s positive test. Bowen didn’t make the trip to Minnesota when the Titans played the Vikings.
“When we get the results early in the morning, Todd (Toriscelli, director of sports medicine) and his staff and Adrian (Dixon, assistant athletic trainer) begin the contact tracing. They do the follow-up testing and then we proceed from there with the protocol as it relates to any of the positives that would come up,” Vrabel said Thursday. “There’s a POC test which happens, and we’re very confident that we’ve followed the guidelines with the protocol that the league and the players’ association have set forth as it relates to identifying those persons of close contact and by using the tracing devices.”
Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Contact tracing to other players and personnel members didn’t produce any positive tests, so the Falcons were cleared to play the Chicago Bears.
Sunday, Sept. 27: Titans play the Vikings in Minnesota. The Titans defeated the Vikings with Vrabel calling the defensive plays in place of Bowen, who did it for the first two games.
No Vikings have tested positive since the Titans game.
Monday, Sept. 28: News breaks of Bowen’s positive test. Vrabel confirmed that Bowen had a positive test and didn’t make the trip to Minnesota. He said that Bowen wasn’t with the team and that the Titans had followed NFL/NFLPA procedures.
“I’d say we’ve followed all the protocols as it relates to COVID,” Vrabel said. “We’re following the hundred memos that they’ve sent out verbatim.”
Titans’ positive tests: one player, one team personnel member
Second-rounder Kristian Fulton joined seven other Titans players who have tested positive this week. AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
Tuesday, Sept. 29: Titans have eight more positive tests. The Titans received new positive tests from three players and five staff members. They placed defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, long-snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
All in-person activities at the Titans’ facility were suspended, but the Week 4 game in Nashville against the Pittsburgh Steelers had not yet been affected.
“We’ve been given a mandate to prepare as if the game is going to be played and played on time,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
The Vikings received news of the additional positive tests and closed their facility along with putting a halt to all in-person activities.
Titans’ positive tests: four players, six team personnel members
Wednesday, Sept. 30: Another Titan tests positive. Outside linebacker Kamalei Correa was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Vrabel was preparing the team to play as early as Monday. According to Vrabel, the players who were in need of treatment were able to enter the facility to see the athletic training staff. Anyone who entered the building was required to wear a mask at all times.
Vrabel also said that some of the players who tested positive were experiencing flu-like symptoms but that he anticipated that “they will feel better shortly.”
Minnesota reopened its facility with enhanced protocols. ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin reported that everyone entering the building had to have a negative PCR test and a negative point of care test (nasal swab with results available in 20 minutes).
Titans’ positive tests: five players, six team personnel members
Dr. Myron Rolle sounds off on what the NFL still needs to do to make players feel more comfortable about playing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday, Oct. 1: Two more Titans test positive; NFL postpones Steelers vs. Titans. The Titans placed cornerback Kristian Fulton on the reserve/COVID-19 list. An additional unnamed team personnel member also tested positive.
According to a statement, the NFL’s decision to move the game to a later date was made “to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel.”
Vrabel said the Titans were “very confident that we’ve followed the guidelines with the protocol that the league and the players’ association have set forth.” The Titans’ facility remained closed. All players, coaches and select team members continued testing while the team was on its bye week as a result of the postponement.
Vrabel delivered news of the postponement to the Titans during a virtual team meeting at 8:30 a.m. The Titans turned their attention to their Week 5 opponent, the Buffalo Bills.
“We had a squad meeting to inform the team that, in light of the two recent positive tests that we had, the NFL had made the smart and safe decision to postpone our game, and that we would be on a bye week starting now,” Vrabel said. “(We) reminded them to not gather with each other, players and staff, until we can find a safe way to enter in back to our building … hopefully which would happen Monday or Tuesday, (and) we would then (begin) preparation against Buffalo.”
The NFL also issued a memo with enhanced protocols for teams to follow after exposure to the coronavirus — including two daily tests. PPE and face masks must be worn by all players and coaches on the practice field, and gloves must be worn by everyone except quarterbacks on their throwing hand. All meetings must be virtual, and there will also be daily deep cleanings of the facility. The protocols also prohibit team or player gatherings away from the facility.
Titans’ positive tests: six players, seven team personnel members
Friday, Oct. 2: Two more Titans test positive; NFL reschedules Steelers vs. Titans for Week 7. The Titans placed wide receivers Adam Humphries and Cam Batson on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
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Both the Titans and the Steelers had their bye changed to Week 4. Officials from the NFL and NFLPA visited Nashville to look into the outbreak further.
The NFL released another memo, this time outlining procedures during the bye week and “testing cadence.” The statement reminds players there is a $50,000 fine for missing a test. A second missed test results in a one-game suspension.
Any player who misses a daily test without authorization during the bye week must have five negative PCR tests (taken 24 hours apart) before reentering a team facility.
Titans’ positive tests: eight players, seven team personnel members
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive for the coronavirus and is out for the team’s Week 4 game against the Chiefs. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Saturday, Oct. 3: Multiple NFL positive tests. The Titans received another positive test for a player — defensive end Jeffery Simmons, their 2019 first-rounder — and two for team personnel members.
News broke that New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive on Saturday morning. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that, per a source, the Patriots did mass testing and retesting and there was no immediate spread.
Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a source.
Titans’ positive tests: nine players, nine team personnel members
Sunday, Oct. 4: Two more Titans receive positive tests. One player and one member of team personnel tested positive; the Titans said they would add Khari Blasingame to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. Sunday marked the sixth consecutive day a Titans player tested positive. The NFL and the NFL Players Association investigated whether the Titans violated the league’s coronavirus-related protocols, sources told ESPN. The NFL and NFLPA asked the Titans to turn over multiple videotapes of team activities so they could get a better idea of the root of the outbreak, according to sources.
Sunday’s Patriots vs. Chiefs game was moved to Monday.
A New Orleans Saints player had a positive COVID-19 test Saturday, but a retest came back negative and that contact tracing found negative tests among those players as well.
Titans’ positive tests: 10 players, 10 team personnel members
Monday, Oct. 5: Titans receive zero positive tests, Chiefs vs. Patriots and Packers vs. Falcons as scheduled. After six consecutive days of receiving positive tests, all tests came back negative for the Titans. Vrabel met virtually with players and coaches in the morning to start preparing for the Bills.
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The NFL releases a memo to all teams to reemphasize taking precautions by maintaining physical distancing, wearing face coverings and practicing healthy hand hygiene. The memo also calls for a longer onboarding process for free-agent tryouts, limitations on the number of tryouts per week, bans gatherings outside the building and implements a league-wide video monitoring system to ensure compliance. According to the memo, teams found in violation of protocol that results in an outbreak that requires an adjustment to the schedule are subject to financial and competitive discipline that can include loss of draft picks and forfeiture of a game.
All tests given to Chiefs players on Monday morning came back negative. The Patriots receive overnight PCR test results that came back negative and fly to Kansas City to face the Chiefs as scheduled.
Tuesday, Oct. 6: Titans receive zero positive tests in consecutive days. The Titans had all tests come back negative. Vrabel had virtual meetings with the players and coaches in the morning. Vrabel said he was hopeful the team would be able to return to its facility on Wednesday if no additional positive tests were received. Vrabel also said the players who tested positive took a step in the right direction but didn’t anticipate them coming back this week.
According to Vrabel, none of the players who were in need of treatment have been able to work with the athletic trainers.
“We stayed in contact with all the players that would require treatment,” Vrabel said. “A lot of them were sent home with stuff. Really confident in Todd (Toriscelli) and what he can do for our players to get them to return, and there were some moving parts as it related to having guys, injured guys, in the building, and then at some point in time we decided here in the last couple of days to keep those guys away and again, hopeful tomorrow we’ll be able to get those guys back into the training room.”
The Patriots (practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray) and Raiders (defensive tackle Maurice Hurst) both placed players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Packers placed an indefinite hold on fans attending games at Lambeau Field because of an increase of COVID-19 cases in the Green Bay area and throughout Wisconsin.
Wednesday, Oct. 7: Two Titans players test positive, Patriots cornerbackStephon Gilmore tests positive. The Titans placed WR Corey Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list. After having two players test positive following two positive-free days, the Titans won’t open their facility. They’ll now need two more days of consecutive negative tests before the NFL can consider allowing them to return to the building.
Reports surfaced a group of Titans players held a workout on Sept. 30 at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. Questions arose regarding whether it was a violation of league protocols/procedures. A league memo was sent to teams on Oct. 1 that banned all in-person activities outside of the facility.
After Gilmore, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tested positive, the Patriots have three players who have positive tests since Saturday and will work remotely. New England’s game against the Denver Broncos could be moved. The Chiefs received no positive tests on Wednesday after playing the Patriots on Monday night. They are able to practice in preparation for their game against the Raiders on Sunday.
Titans’ positive tests: 12 players, 10 team personnel members
Thursday, Oct. 8: Another positive Titans test; More games postponed. In addition to the new positive test, the Titans’ inconclusive test from Wednesday was confirmed to be positive. The Titans placed TE MyCole Pruitt and practice squad DB Breon Borders on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Also, practice squad TE Tommy Hudson, who is also on reserve/COVID-19 list, has been suspended without pay for six games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The Titans’ facility remains closed. ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Bills and Titans players told her Sunday’s game would be moved to Tuesday. The Bills have a game against the Chiefs the following Thursday, which was moved to Sunday.
Regarding the workout Titans players had on Sept. 30, the team was informed on Sept. 29 that in-person gatherings had been banned because of the organization’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, a league source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, meaning that the players’ informal workouts the following day were unauthorized and a violation of the NFL’s virus-related protocols. Multiple Titans players, however, have told ESPN that they were unaware workouts had been banned on Sept. 29.
The Patriots received good news when all of their tests came back negative.
Two Week 5 games have been moved. The Broncos-Patriots game moves from Sunday to Monday night (5 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Titans-Bills game moves from Sunday to Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, CBS) as long as there are no more positive tests with Tennessee, sources told Schefter. The Bills-Chiefs game, which was scheduled for Thursday, will instead be moved to Oct. 18, as long as there are no more positive tests in Tennessee, a source told Schefter.
Titans’ positive tests: 13 players, 10 team personnel members
Friday, Oct. 9: Titans receive zero positive tests, Jets receive a scare. All of the tests came back negative for the Titans.
After a presumptive positive test by a Jets player, the team sent all players and coaches home. The facility was shut down as the team re-ran the test at a lab in New Jersey. All activities were moved to a virtual setting. Upon re-testing, that Jets player was found to be a false positive. The Arizona Cardinals boarded their plane for their game against the Jets on Sunday.
Saturday, Oct. 10: Another day of negative tests for Titans prompts return to their facility. The Titans had all negative tests for the second consecutive day. The facility was reopened for the first time since Sept. 29. Practice was moved indoors due to inclement weather.
The Patriots returned to their facility after working remotely since Wednesday. They once again received all negative tests.
Mike Vrabel outlines the preparation week for Tuesday’s game against the Bills. The Titans remove Isaiah Wilson and Greg Mabin from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
A Chicago Bears practice squad player tests positive.
One of the Chiefs’ strength and conditioning coaches test positive. Contact tracing begins for both teams.
Sunday, Oct. 11: Patriots, Titans receive positive tests; two Broncos games postponed. The Patriots received a positive test and shut their building down while further testing was conducted. New England’s Week 5 game against the Denver Broncos was moved to next Sunday. The Broncos were supposed to play Miami next Sunday but that game will be rescheduled.
The Titans received a positive test from a staff member and shut down their facility. They activated DL DaQuan Jones and LS Beau Brinkley from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Both players were placed on the list on Sept. 29.
Titans’ positive tests: 13 players, 11 team personnel members