by Teresa M. Walker
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — The Tennessee Titans suspended in-person activities through Friday after the NFL says three Titans players and five personnel tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first COVID-19 outbreak of the NFL season in Week 4.
The outbreak threatened to jeopardize the Titans’ game this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers and posed the first significant in-season test to the league’s coronavirus protocols.
The NFL issued a statement Tuesday saying both the Titans and Minnesota Vikings suspended in-person activities Tuesday following the Titans’ test results. The Titans beat the Vikings 31-30 in Minneapolis last weekend.
“Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA, including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments,” the league said.
A person familiar with situation told The Associated Press the eight test results were all confirmed positives, making this the first outbreak since the season began on Sept 10. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of health privacy regulations.
The Vikings released a statement saying they had not received any positive results from their testing after Sunday’s game against the Titans. They also said they followed NFL protocol by closing their facility immediately and were working to determine when they can reopen.
Minnesota is scheduled to visit Houston (0-3) on Sunday.
The Titans (3-0) are scheduled to host the Steelers (3-0) on Sunday in a matchup of two of the league’s seven remaining undefeated teams. With the Titans unable to practice until Saturday at the earliest, when that game might be played is unknown.
“All decisions will be made with health and safety as our primary consideration,” the NFL said. “We will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.”
Spokesman Burt Lauten said the Steelers have been in contact with the NFL about the Titans’ positive tests.
“We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday’s game until we are informed otherwise,” Lauten said in a statement.
Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward wrote on Twitter that the guys playing the next week now wind up affected.
“This is wild but this is the world we live in now,” Heyward wrote.
At least one member of the Titans knows what he wants this week.
“I just wanna play,” Titans starting left guard Rodger Saffold wrote on Twitter.
The Titans initially announced Tuesday morning that they would be working remotely “out of an abundance of caution” after several test results came back positive. They beat the Vikings in Minneapolis without outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen, who did not travel with the Titans following a test result Saturday.
Coach Mike Vrabel said Monday that Bowen was not with the team. Rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson, their top draft pick out of Georgia, also has been on the reserve/COVID-19 list for the Titans since Sept. 6.
The Titans use devices that detect whenever someone is within 6 feet of another device and records how long they are that close together. That provides a recording of everyone’s interactions from inside the team headquarters to the practice field, an airplane, inside a hotel and at a stadium.
That information should help the Titans and the infectious disease experts know which players and coaches were at risk. With the Titans’ facility now closed for four days, that should also help limit further spread of the virus.
The Titans were due to have about 7,000 fans in Nissan Stadium on Sunday as local restrictions eased, expanding to about 8,500 on Oct. 11 for a game against Buffalo and up to 10,000 on Oct. 18 when Houston is scheduled to visit.
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Teresa M. Walker is a Pro Football Writer with The Associated Press. AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis and AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
About the Headline Photo: Members of the Tennessee Titans take part in the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. The NFL says the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings are suspending in-person activities after the Titans had three players test positive for the coronavirus, along with five other personnel. The league says both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the players’ union on tracing contacts, more testing and monitoring developments. The Titans are scheduled to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)