“The decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel,” the NFL said in a written statement.
The Titans’ facility will remain closed and the team will have in-person activities suspended “until further notice,” the league said. The Titans and Minnesota Vikings closed their facilities after the Titans had eight positive test results — including three players and five non-players — returned Tuesday from tests performed Monday. The Titans had another player test positive in the results returned Wednesday from Tuesday’s testing.
The Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday in Minneapolis, reopened their facility Thursday and announced they’d had no positive test results among players, coaches and team staffers. The NFL plans for the Vikings-Texans game to be played as scheduled Sunday in Houston.
The postponements to the Titans-Steelers game are the first changes to the NFL’s schedule during the 2020 season as it operates during the pandemic. The league did not immediately announce when the game will be played.
One possibility mentioned previously is that the Titans-Steelers game could be played in Week 7. That’s the current bye week for the Titans. The Steelers’ game at Baltimore in Week 7 would be moved to Week 8, now the bye week for the Steelers and Ravens, in that potential scenario.
Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said in a video news conference Wednesday that the Titans had been diligent in adhering to the health protocols developed by the league and the NFL Players Association. No one should be faulted, Vrabel said, for the first outbreak on an NFL team.
“Nobody is to blame,” Vrabel said Wednesday. “We’re in a pandemic. Unfortunately, things happen.”
Vrabel said Wednesday that some of the Titans players and non-playing members of the organization to have tested positive this week were experiencing “flu-like symptoms” but they were “nothing, I think, out of the ordinary.” He added: “We anticipate that they will feel better shortly.”
He spoke Wednesday of the personal toll of the team’s outbreak and said he would have liked for the league to have inquired “about how those individuals were feeling.”
Vrabel said he was not among those to have tested positive this week and added: “There’s a personal side of this that sometimes we look past and we want to make sure when we’re going to play the games and that the protocols are being followed. But I think that there’s a personal side to this about those individuals that did indeed test positive.”
Amid the Titans-Steelers postponements, the NFL sent a memo to teams Wednesday stressing the need to adhere to all health protocols, including the directive for coaches and other team staff members to wear face coverings properly while on the sideline during games, if the season is to proceed without interruptions.
“We are only through Week 3 of the season,” Wednesday’s NFL memo said. “If we are to play a full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols, such as wearing face coverings and observing physical distancing requirements[,] will put the 2020 season at risk. … Selective or inconsistent compliance threatens to undermine fan confidence in our health and safety protocols and the competitive fairness and integrity of the NFL season.”
In a memo to teams sent Tuesday about the Titans’ positive tests, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote: “This is not unexpected; as Dr. Sills and others have emphasized, there will be players and staff who will test positive during the season.”
Allen Sills is the league’s chief medical officer.
“These results confirm the need to remain diligent in implementing all of our health and safety protocols to the fullest extent,” Goodell wrote in Tuesday’s memo.