It took a few weeks, but by Week 4, COVID-19 had begun to make a heavy impact on the 2020 NFL season.
It doesn’t seem like the coronavirus will be going anywhere, either, after a Titans outbreak and Cam Newton positive test started a wave of daily news. One Week 4 game and one Week 5 game were moved until later in the season due to positive tests. One Week 4 game and one Week 5 game were shifted to take place later than their previously scheduled Sunday kickoffs to account for additional testing protocols. And the NFL continues to tweak its rules in new memos meant to increase safety.
This is a timeline of each day’s new COVID-19 developments since the first Titans positive test.
MORE: Explaining the NFL’s COVID-19 rules
Sept. 24: First Titans positive test
Tennessee defensive back Greg Mabin tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 24. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said Mabin was removed immediately from the facility upon the positive test outcome.
Mabin had been signed on Sept. 21 to the Titans practice squad. During the pandemic, the NFL has instituted additional protocols for signing players that Mabin would have had to pass.
Sept. 26: Titans coach tests positive; Terrell to COVID-19/Reserve list
Tennessee outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen received a positive test result the Saturday before the Titans traveled to play at the Minnesota Vikings. The Titans have said they went through all the required league contact-tracing procedures after Bowen tested positive.
Outside of Tennessee, the Atlanta Falcons placed rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Terrell’s contact tracing didn’t return any concerns, so the Falcons and Bears played as scheduled in Week 3. No further Atlanta or Chicago players have been placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list since.
Sept. 27: Titans play at Vikings
With Bowen at home, Vrabel was the Titans’ defensive play-caller against Minnesota. As the week goes on, the Vikings will come under increased scrutiny due to playing Tennessee, but no Vikings have tested positive.
Sept. 28: Two positive Titans tests
The first news comes out of positive tests with the Titans – one player and one personnel person. Vrabel also confirmed this Monday that Bowen had tested positive, that the Titans had followed protocol and that Bowen hadn’t been in Minnesota.
Sept. 29: Eight more Titans positives
Three more Titans players and five more personnel people received positive test results. This led to all in-person activities at the Tennessee facility to be shut down, along with the facility in Minnesota temporarily being shut down. The NFL did not yet make any decisions in regards to Tennessee’s Week 4 game, which was scheduled to be a home contest against the Steelers.
Three Titans players were placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list: DaQuan Jones, Beau Brinkley and Tommy Hudson.
Sept. 30: Another positive Titan
The Titans placed linebacker Kamalei Correa on the COVID list. Vrabel told media that the Titans were preparing to play as early as Monday. Vrabel also told media that players needing treatment were allowed into the facility in masks, and he said some of the players who tested positive were experiencing flu-like symptoms.
In Minnesota, players were allowed back into the facility with increased health protocols.
Oct. 1: NFL postpones Titans-Steelers
The NFL announced it’d be postponing the Titans vs. Steelers game “to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel.” Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton was added to the COVID list.
Additionally, the NFL released a memo of increased protocols for teams that had been exposed to the coronavirus, which included two daily tests for everyone working with such a team.
Oct. 2: NFL reschedules Titans-Steelers
Two more Titans, including receiver Adam Humphries, were added to the COVID list. The NFL also announced how it’d be shifting schedules to account for the Titans-Steelers postponement: The teams would play Week 7, with the Steelers and Ravens having their Week 7 game moved to Week 8.
That made Tennessee and Pittsburgh’s official bye Week 4, while Baltimore had its bye moved up a week to Week 7. The NFL also reiterated its fine structure for missing COVID tests – a $50,000 fine for one missed test and a one-game suspension for a second.
Oct. 3: Cam Newton tests positive
The positive tests expanded outside of Tennessee as news came out Saturday morning that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive for COVID-19. The Titans also had another positive test – 2019 first-rounder Jeffery Simmons – and the Chiefs had one as well, in practice squad QB Jordan Ta’amu (whose Week 4 role was playing Newton on the K.C. scout team).
Adam Schefter’s initial report indicated the NFL would like to move the Patriots’ game in Kansas City to Tuesday.
Oct. 4: Saints receive false positive; Patriots-Chiefs rescheduled
Overnight into Week 4 Sunday, news came out that Saints fullback Michael Burton had received a positive COVID-19 test, which likely would’ve moved the New Orleans game against the Lions. But multiple reports came out Sunday morning that indicated Burton had a false positive and that the rest of the Saints had tested negative, so they played as scheduled against Detroit at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Just before games kicked off, the NFL announced how it’d shift the schedule for Patriots-Chiefs. Those teams would play Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET on CBS, while Monday Night Football would shift backward by 35 minutes to kick off at 8:50 p.m. ET between the Falcons and Packers on ESPN.
Oct. 5: NFL memo threatens lost draft picks, game forfeitures
The Titans had no players test positive on Monday, Oct. 5, and the Patriots-Chiefs game proceeded as scheduled Monday night.
The league released a memo that re-emphasized safety protocols and put in place further restrictions on bringing players in for tryouts. The memo also laid out possible punishments for continued breaking of COVID-19 protocols, which could include the loss of draft picks or even the forfeiting of a game.
Oct. 6: Positive Patriots and Raiders tests
The Patriots placed practice squad defensive lineman Bill Murray on the COVID-19/reserve list, and the Raiders put their defensive lineman Maurice Hurst on the list, as well. The Titans had a second consecutive day with no positive tests, but the focus shifted to New England after the Pats played a game two days after Newton tested positive and now had another positive result.
On Oct. 6, the Green Bay Packers announced an indefinite hold on fans being able to attend games at Lambeau Field as Green Bay dealt with the worst per capita COVID-19 numbers in the league.
Oct. 7: Stephon Gilmore, two Titans test positive; Reports of Titans workout surface
New England’s star cornerback, Gilmore, came back with a positive test and sparked worries after photos of him embracing Patrick Mahomes after Monday’s game surfaced. The Titans were set to open their facility but wouldn’t after two more players, including WR Corey Davis, came back with positive tests.
Reports surfaced Oct. 7 that the Titans had held a workout at a local high school while they were supposed to be away from the facility and not getting together for outside workouts.
Oct. 8: Two Week 5 games moved
The NFL announced it’d be moving two Week 5 games previously scheduled for Sunday. The Patriots and Broncos were now scheduled to play Monday, and the Bills and Titans would play Tuesday. The shifted Bills-Titans game would move the Week 6 Thursday night game between the Bills and Chiefs off further to the following Monday.
Oct. 9: Jets sent home after presumptive positive
Two days before the Arizona Cardinals were slated to play at the New York Jets, everyone at the Jets’ facility was sent home Friday morning due to a presumptive positive test. Their facilities were moved to a virtual setting for the day. When the test was re-run, it came back as a false positive.
Oct. 10: Titans reopen facility
Two consecutive days of negative tests allowed the Titans to return to their facility for the first time since Sept. 29. The Patriots also returned to their facility after having worked virtually since Wednesday when Gilmore tested positive.
Two positive tests came back around the league on Oct. 10: A Bears practice squad player and a Chiefs strength and conditioning coach. Both teams then underwent appropriate contact tracing.
Oct. 11: Another Patriots positive postpones game with Broncos
The Patriots received another positive test and shut down their facilities. The NFL moved New England’s Monday game with the Broncos to Week 6, would require further game movement involving Denver’s Week 6 game with the Dolphins.
The Titans also received a positive test on Oct. 11, from a staff member. Speculation that the positive result was unreleated to the Titans’ outbreak and subsequent following of contact tracing protocol left the Titans-Bills Tuesday game on schedule.
Oct. 12: NFL announces gameday testing
The NFL announced changed protocols that would include PCR testing on gamedays. Previously, those people classified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 were being tested every day but gameday.
Oct. 13: Titans have no positives, game with Bills will go on
Reports Tuesday morning indicated the Titans had no new positive tests, which will allow their Week 5 game with the Buffalo Bills to be played Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET. It’ll be the first Tuesday night game in the NFL since 2010, when the Eagles and Vikings played on Tuesday due to a blizzard that had broken the Metrodome’s roof.
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