Just when you thought it was safe to think the NFL had trapped COVID-19, new cases are being reported. Unfortunately, at least one of them is with the Tennessee Titans, and this has serious ramifications for the rest of the season schedule, starting with Week 5 this weekend.
The NFL has tried to beef up its anti-COVID-19 protocols in light of the recent outbreak, but it may be too little, too late.
Titans Can’t Control Players
The fact that most of the recent COVID-19 cases have centered on the Titans can only lead to one conclusion – the team is not doing its job in keeping players in line. Several Titans were diagnosed with the coronavirus ahead of Week 4, resulting in several games having to be rescheduled, and recent testing has revealed two more cases on the team.
There have now been 11 players total on Tennessee’s team, as well as five staff members, who have popped positive for COVID-19. The Titans were supposed to face the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but that game was moved to Week 7 because of previous COVID-19 results. Now, the game this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills might not happen, which will cause further chaos in the season schedule.
Tennessee Isn’t Alone
Although Tennessee has recorded the highest single-team COVID-19 infections, it isn’t the only team to see issues. The New England Patriots already lost quarterback Cam Newton heading into Week 4 because of the virus, and are now down more players. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tested positive yesterday, and practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray is on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. While an appearance on the list may not necessarily mean a player is infected, it means that he has at least been in contact with someone who is.
As a result, Gillette Stadium, the Pats’ home turf, has been temporarily closed. New England is supposed to play the Denver Broncos this Sunday; however, no word has been provided on whether the game will be postponed. Between now and Saturday, daily testing will take place, and these results will determine the league’s next move.
The NFL Cracks Down Once Again
As a result of the latest COVID-19 issues, the NFL is becoming more strict with its protocols. The league had already implemented updated policies regarding travel and player interaction, along with threats of suspending teams who violated the rules. Now, all league franchises are required to keep video surveillance footage of their facilities for 30 days, and turn them over to the NFL if an investigation is required to ensure compliance of the protocols.
League teams are also going to have to create schedules that will limit the number of players allowed in locker rooms at any given time. Shifts will have to be implemented to enforce physical distancing protocols, and lockers could be shuffled so that those on each shift are able to adhere to those protocols. In addition, ground travel, which previously required the use of two buses per team, will now require five buses.
Sportsbooks Take Notice
Sportsbooks have taken notice of the ongoing issues regarding COVID-19 and are already making changes to the weekend lineup. While Week 5 should have 15 games, provided nothing changes, several sportsbooks are now only offering lines for ten. PointsBet, for example, has taken the Las Vegas Raiders/Kansas City Chiefs game off the board after Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst tested positive. The Titans/Bills game has also been taken down at PointsBet, as well as others.
This doesn’t mean that sports gambling fans aren’t been given other targets, though. With a second COVID-19 wave appearing in the league, there has been talk of the NFL introducing additional weeks. Gamblers can expect many sportsbooks to offer a futures option on an NFL Week 18 – and possibly Week 19 – to extend the season.