The National Football League has had to postpone its first game because of a Covid-19 outbreak.
It was hoped that the game could be played just a couple of days later than scheduled but further positive tests in the Titans camp meant the league thought it most fair to move the game to later on in the season, when hopefully both sides will be Covid-free.
“The Steelers-Titans game, originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, will be rescheduled to allow additional time for further daily COVID-19 testing and to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel,” the NFL said in a statement. “Details on a new game date and time either on Monday or Tuesday will be announced as soon as possible.”
“The decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel,” the league said. “The Titans facility will remain closed and the team will continue to have no in-person activities until further notice.”
Last Tuesday saw the Titans place three players on the new Covid-19 list, including defensive captain DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley. Outside linebacker Kamalei Correa then tested positive for the virus a day later and further bad news meant the total figure of Titans affected rose to 11.
The NFL is now tasked with finding a time for the fixture to be rescheduled, with week seven currently looking the most likely. This is the Titan’s scheduled bye week and the Steelers are due to face off with the Baltimore Ravens, so it would still require some moving around of fixtures by the NFL.
Any further outbreak will likely lead to even more disruption to fixtures and the schedule and could potentially put the NFL season in doubt.
“I met with the team and asked them questions, tried to engage with them, showed them film of Pittsburgh, and went through what I think are the keys to the game,” Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters. “We have to hold each other accountable and be ready to go. No one instructed them to go practice or to do anything of that nature.”
“We are preparing to play the football game now as early as Monday,” Vrabel said. “I am confident the league will allow us time to practice, to get (players) on the field, and then moving with the game.”
“Some of the Titans players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are experiencing flu-like symptoms, but nothing I think out of the ordinary. We anticipate that they will feel better shortly. My concern is always with the safety and the health of our players, their families, our staff, and their families. And then also, the individuals that have tested positive, I think their mental state is strong.”
“We had a great team meeting this morning. After a break midday, zoom meetings will continue later today. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, coach Shane Bowen and special teams coach Craig Aukerman met with the three units as well, and meetings with position coaches will continue to take place.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of questions about, ‘who’s to blame? and ‘where it started?'”
Vrabel said. “Nobody is to blame. We’re in a pandemic. No one is to blame. We are not interested in trying to blame anybody. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make the players safe and that this doesn’t happen again.”
Both the Titans and Steelers have started the season without loss through three weeks and will be harboring ambitions of reaching the play offs and beyond. The Titans’ three victories have come by a total winning margin of just six points, while the Steelers have utilized the return of Big Ben to defeat the Giants, Texans and Broncos.
“I am disappointed because we were preparing to play and we’re not getting an opportunity to,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “We understand the nature of this environment we are in in 2020 and we are adjusting accordingly. There is disappointment.
“There is no question. We worked extremely hard at the beginning portion of this week in preparation for what we thought was an opportunity versus an undefeated team in their venue. You lean in on those opportunities. We are not getting an opportunity to do that,” he continued.
“Instead we are getting a bye week, so we are going to make the best of that. We have every intention of getting appropriate rest and taking care of those that need to be mended in any way. More than anything just kicking back and gaining a little bit of perspective in terms of watching others work and we’ll come in at the beginning of next week and lean in on Philadelphia.”