OP-ED: The Titans, a Scarlet Letter and the Real Message from the NFL

This NFL season has been interesting to say the least. No fans for majority of stadiums, coaches and officials wearing masks on game day and the different levels of protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic have definitely changed things surrounding the NFL. Even with all that going on, the Tennessee Titans are still cooking with gas, as they are 3-0 to start the season. Although they are at the top of the AFC, there are still some doubters to how good they really are. With Sunday coming against the 3-0 Steelers, the Titans were looking forward to showing their doubters that they were the real deal. Unfortunately, COVID-19 struck before they could even begin preparation for Pittsburgh.

Three Titans players and five members of team personnel tested positive for COVID-19 and it was confirmed they weren’t false positives. The NFL moved the game to Week 7 for the Titans to take on the Steelers, but since then, there have been even more positives tests for COVID-19 pop up in their organization. Players such as starting defensive linemen Jeffrey Simmons and DaQuan Jones along with wide receivers Cam Batson and Adam Humphries among others have been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. It was announced the Titans had two more tests Wednesday, October 7th after two days of negative tests for the entire organization. The total now is 22 players and personnel and with the unknown of when and where it may strike again on the team, their game against the Buffalo Bills may be in question.

Along with the outbreak among the team, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are looking into the Titans and making sure they were following all protocols that were set. The Titans are clearly being watched nationally by teams and fans alike right now and news recently came out in regards to some members of the team holding a unauthorized workout at a local high school. According to reports, they were told to not hold workouts together when it was announced that 3 players and five personnel members had Covid-19, but did so anyway the day after that was told to them and the day after the workouts, the NFL set a new protocol across the board. While there is no decision now on if they will be punished regarding this workout (punishment could be a team or player fine or both, forfeit of draft picks or even forfeit of a game in the Titans’ situation), they certainly will be looked at differently after this revelation. The Titans may not have done what they were supposed to do, but let’s also not forget what the NFL did not do.

The NFL could have done a better job at the beginning of setting up protocols for the Titans and other teams in the NFL. They had the longest time of any professional league to set up different things and could have even adjusted the schedule. Instead, they chose to wait and wait and wait. There was no communication to the players as to what the steps would be to keep them safe at all. Then, the players had to force their hand.

Players like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had to go to social media to get the NFL to start setting up some set protocols and announce them to the players. With how serious this pandemic is, the NFL should have already had something in place. It ultimately just shows you what the NFL owners think of their players and their objective is overall. The NFL was thinking about all the money being lost if they did not play and they were also thinking the players could be collateral damage in my opinion. Well, hopefully no one becomes deathly ill like the over 200,000 people and counting that have in America, but that is a serious risk to take. The issue at hand is the outbreak among the Titans organization and their reported negligence after the first original outbreak, but the NFL has to do better by it’s players as a whole and quit thinking dollar signs and think human life along with players being responsible. Money will be lost and we know that is going to happen, but the league does not function without the players playing on Sundays, Thursdays and Mondays.

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