What Does the NFL's First COVID Outbreak Mean for Fans?

The NFL was left scrambling after news broke that three players and five team personnel members of the Tennessee Titans tested positive for the coronavirus. The team announced it had closed their facilities for at least the week going forward after receiving the test results in an attempt to contain the virus.

"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," the Titans said in a team statement Tuesday morning. "We will have more information tomorrow."

The Titans' opponents this past Sunday, The Minnesota Vikings, also closed their facilities even though the team reported that they have had no positive tests at this time.

The NFL also issued a statement, which read that both the Titans and Vikings are working with the league and the NFL Players Association and medical officials "to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments ... with health and safety as our primary consideration."

Stephen Gostkowski, Tennessee Titans
Stephen Gostkowski of the Tennessee Titans kicks a field goal against the Denver Broncos on September 14. Dustin Bradford/Getty

But the news could have even farther reaching consequences for fans of not just those two teams. As of right now, the Titans are set to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers this coming Sunday, while the Vikings are due to square off against the Houston Texans. Both of those games are in jeopardy, particularly the Titans/Steelers match-up--at the very least, that game seemingly will be moved from its scheduled location of Nissan Stadium, the Nashville home of the Titans.

CBS Sports' Jason La Confora tweeted the NFL contacted the Steelers that the game may need to be rescheduled.

In a statement, the Steelers organization acknowledged it was monitoring the situation closely. "We have been in contact with the NFL regarding the positive COVID-19 tests with the Titans," the statement said. "We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday's game until we are informed otherwise. We will provide more information when available."

The Titans' linebackers coach and defensive playcaller Shane Bowen sat out Sunday's game due to COVID-19 protocol, and the team has been without offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, who was placed into protocol earlier in September. Who came back with positive results in the latest round of testing is unclear at this time. The Titans and the NFL have not responded to requests for further comments at press time.

Per the COVID-19 protocol established between the NFL and the Players' Association, players who test positive for COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic can return 10 days after the test or after five days with two consecutive negative tests within a five-day period. Players who exhibit symptoms can return 10 days after the symptoms first appear and 72 hours have passed since any symptoms have ended. Any player who tests positive must be cleared by the team's physician and undergo cardiac testing. ESPN's Dan Graziano reported those who tested positive on the Titans have been a symptomatic as of Tuesday morning.

The NFL likely expected this to eventually happen after dozens of NFL players tested positive for coronavirus while in training this summer, with many others receiving false positives. Even if games are rescheduled or outright canceled, don't expect anyone to throw a flag on the season as a whole. MLB somehow made it through a longer season--though with less contact between opposing players--and is ready for the playoffs. The NFL, sponsors, and TV networks also have entirely too much money to give up without exhausting every possible option.