The NFL experienced its first real coronavirus hurdle this regular season after the Tennessee Titans had 11 positive test results from both players and team personnel.
Since the first positives were reported Tuesday, the Titans moved all team activities from in-person to remote and have shut down their team facility until further notice. Their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers had been originally rescheduled from Sunday to either Monday or Tuesday, but after another two positive test results were confirmed Thursday morning, it has been moved to beyond Week 4. The Titans’ Week 3 opponents, the Minnesota Vikings, also shuttered their facility but plan to resume in-person activities Thursday after the team had zero positive COVID-19 tests.
For the Cardinals and offensive lineman D.J. Humphries, the scenario the Titans — and the other two teams involved — are in gives them a firsthand look at the repercussions of positive coronavirus tests during the NFL regular season.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they respond to it just since it’s our first instance during the season, but if I know anything about the NFL, you know we’ll find a way to get through things,” Humphries said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “As long as things aren’t spreading they’re going to find a way to make sure everything’s OK to get the game played.
“Like I said, I’ll be interested to see how it everything pans out because it will kind be like a playbook on how things will kinda go if it ever happens on our end.”
Since Week 1, the league has been focused on keeping its protocols in place and followed by every member of the NFL. It first issued warnings for the lack of facemasks being worn by coaches on the sidelines in Week 1 before fining coaches and clubs who didn’t follow the protocols the following week. Those fined included San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan, Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Denver’s Vic Fangio.
In addition to the mask protocols, stadiums are either empty or at limited capacity in an effort to limit exposure in large gatherings. The Cardinals allowed a maximum of 750 close friends and family in their second home game of the season against the Detroit Lions after not allowing fans in the stands for the home opener. Even the players’ jersey swap at the end of games has taken on a different look.
It’s not just on the NFL and its protocols, however. Players must make the conscious effort to follow the guidelines and set their own in place to avoid catching the virus.
“There ain’t no going out,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said on his All Things Covered podcast when asked if he has talked to his younger teammates on the issue Thursday. “Because not only are you putting yourself in harm’s way, you’re putting 53 other men’s families in harm’s way. It’s not about you. It’s bigger than you. You have to think about the bigger picture.”
With the steps the NFL has taken to limit interactions and provide a safe work environment for all those involved, Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds doesn’t want one group of positive test results to derail the season.
“[The Titans news is] kinda surprising to me just because this is really like the first, if you want to call it, outbreak … that the NFL is dealing with,” Edmonds said. “Again, I see the protocols we have. I think everything will be alright. I don’t think there’s any need to overreact or people start calling for a pause of the NFL season. I think the the NFL is going to be alright with the protocols they have in hand.”
But, if anything, the positive test results provide a wake-up call of sorts for the rest of the league.
“We talked about it [Tuesday] in our team meeting. We gotta stay vigilant,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters Wednesday. “This is an everyday deal, we cannot become laxed at any point because the consequences can be pretty dire when you talk about canceling games and not being able to practice, not being able to come to the facility.
“We just have to stay on top of it. I think [head athletic trainer and infection control officer] Tom Reed and our staff have done a tremendous job implementing the protocols and keeping guys on top of it but it’s a day-to-day thing. We can’t miss a day.”