The NFL has been hit with its first COVID-19 outbreak.
The Tennessee Titans closed their facility after eight team members (three players, five personnel) tested positive for the coronavirus, the league announced Tuesday. The Titans will not be allowed to re-enter their practice facility until Saturday, putting Sunday’s game against the Steelers in Nashville in jeopardy. A source told ESPN that the league identified 48 people who had close contact with the eight people who tested positive, all of whom are reportedly asymptomatic.
The Vikings, who played host to the Titans on Sunday, also shut their facility, but have not had any confirmed cases. Minnesota, which is scheduled to play at Houston on Sunday, will not return to its facility until all test results have been processed.
“This is not unexpected,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in an email to team executives, obtained by ESPN. “There will be players and staff who will test positive during the season.”
Unlike MLB teams, which made up games this year via doubleheaders, it is unclear how the NFL would handle a postponed game. According to ESPN, one contingency plan calls for impacted games to potentially be moved to Monday night.
The Steelers, though, were planning to kick off as scheduled on Sunday, while the Titans prepare through virtual meetings.
“We have been in contact with the NFL regarding the positive COVID-19 tests with the Tennessee Titans,” the Steelers said in a statement. “We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday’s game until we are informed otherwise.”
Titans linebacker coach Shane Bowen tested positive on Saturday and didn’t make the
A positive test may not register for up to a week after infections initially take place.
The NFL released a statement noting that the Vikings and Titans are working to “evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments … with health and safety as our primary consideration.” The league is “exploring in more detail” where contact may have taken place with infected individuals.
Goodell said the referees who officiated Sunday’s game in Minnesota will be tested and monitored, while family members of individuals who tested positive will be offered testing. Teams are capable of performing contact tracing through a small PPE device worn by players and team personnel.
NFL players who test positive for COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic are permitted to return 10 days after the initial test or after two consecutive negative tests in a five-day period. Team members with symptoms cannot return until at least 10 days after the symptoms first
“Each of us has a special responsibility to keep others safe and healthy,” Goodell said in the memo. “What each of us does affects not only ourselves and our immediate families, but many others on our own club and on other clubs.”