Could Titans’ COVID outbreak put Week 5 game against Buffalo in jeopardy?

Jesse Pantuosco
October 03, 2020 - 8:10 am

The hits keep on coming. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a total of 16 Titans—that includes eight players and eight coaches/staff members—have tested positive for the coronavirus. One player and two staff were added to the tally Saturday, which, according to Schefter has raised “questions about the viability” of Tennessee’s upcoming game against Buffalo in Week 5.

Slot receiver Adam Humphries, practice-squad wideout Cameron Batson, LS Beau Brinkley, LB Kamalei Correa, CB Kristian Fulton, TE Tommy Hudson and DT DaQuan Jones were each placed on the team’s COVID-19 list, a group that seems to be growing by the day. The NFL was luckily able to resolve this week’s postponement, rescheduling the Titans’ game against Pittsburgh to Week 7. As a result, the Steelers’ matchup with division-rival Baltimore, originally planned for Week 7, was pushed to the following week.

However, now that the Titans have burned their bye week, any margin of error the league once had has quickly evaporated. What would a second or even third missed game mean for the NFL’s rest-of-season schedule? Would commissioner Goodell opt to delay the start of the playoffs, enacting an unprecedented Week 18 to account for the Titans’ string of COVID postponements? Pat McAfee, a former Pro Bowler who now produces content for FanDuel, made an interesting discovery recently, noting the NFL has booked hotels in Tampa for four weeks after the Super Bowl, which is currently slated for February 7, 2021. That would suggest the league already has a contingency plan in place should the season be further interrupted by COVID.

Assuming the Titans have been diligent about quarantining players who either have or were exposed to the virus, Tennessee could conceivably host the Bills in Week 5 by calling in reinforcements, promoting practice-squad players to fill out their COVID-depleted roster. COVID’s continued prevalence (President Trump was hospitalized with the virus Friday) is precisely why teams keep emergency contact lists, including the Eagles, who made the unusual decision to stash 41-year-old Josh McCown on their practice squad. If there was ever a time for the Titans to break out their bursting-at-the-seams rolodex of available free agents, this would be it.

With Tennessee’s facility shut down until further notice, would the league consider staging Week 5 at a neutral site or even in Buffalo? At this point, all options are on the table. Remarkably, the Titans’ Week 3 opponent, the 0-3 Vikings, have not had any coaches or players test positive for the virus and will play as scheduled Sunday in Houston.

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