It appears the Tennessee Titans’ run-in with COVID-19 is much bigger than just outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen’s positive results from Saturday.
Tuesday morning, the Titans canceled all in-person activities and shut down the team facility until Saturday after multiple test results came back positive for COVID-19. According to an NFL-issued statement, the Titans returned three positive player tests and five positive personnel tests.
“Out of the abundance of caution, the organization has decided to work remotely today as we follow NFL protocols related to the COVID-19 virus," say the Titans in a statement. "Several tests have come back positive and [we] are working through the process of confirming them. We will have more information tomorrow.”
Subsequently, the Minnesota Vikings — who lost 31-30 to the Titans on Sunday — shut down their team facility and canceled in-person activities as well. The Vikings’ COVID-19 tests from Monday all came back negative, and the team was tested again Tuesday morning.
According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, through contact tracing, the Vikings identified 48 players and staff members who were exposed to the eight people on the Titans who tested positive. Graziano also reports that all eight people who tested positive for Tennessee are asymptomatic.
Per NFL protocol, asymptomatic people who tested positive can return to team facilities after 10 days have passed since the initial positive test, or five days have passed since the initial positive test and the person has two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart within the five-day period. NFL protocol also states for symptomatic people to return to their facilities, 10 days have to have passed since symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours have passed since they last experienced symptoms.
This is the first outbreak of COVID-19 in the NFL since the league began the 2020 season. Only two players tested positive in the previous week of testing around the NFL, and Atlanta Flacons cornerback A.J. Terrell was the first player to be put on the reserve/COVID-19 list during the regular season.
The Titans are expected to be tested again to see if any more players who weren’t positive in the last round of testing receive positive results. The NFL issued a statement on Tuesday addressing the next steps for both Tennessee and Minnesota.
“Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and NFLPA, including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments,” the statement reads. “All decisions will be made with health and safety as our primary consideration.”
While Tennessee’s facility is shut down until at least Saturday and the team is not allowed to practice, that makes hosting Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers — which 7,000 fans were expected to attend — all the more difficult.
The Steelers have said in a statement that the NFL told them the game is still scheduled.
“We have been in contact with the NFL regarding the positive COVID-19 tests with the Tennessee Titans,” says the Steelers' release. “We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday’s game until we are informed otherwise.”
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told players there would be "no excuses" if they can't workout or practice until Saturday and then only have a walkthrough and play Pittsburgh on Sunday.