ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The Titans had another positive test come up Wednesday and an inconclusive test from Tuesday also ended up a positive. The news first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL.com Thursday morning.
That means the Tennessee practice facility will be closed at least through Saturday. It also makes a Bills game in Nashville Sunday seem practically impossible.
The league has not made an official determination on the status of that game, but a decision is expected Thursday at least on whether the game will be played on Sunday.
As of Thursday afternoon when Bills players spoke with western New York media, nothing was clear.
“We have no idea what is going on,” Micah Hyde said.
The Bills are fully aware of what is going on Tennessee. Hyde said some players with friends among the Titans have texted those friends, but have gleaned nearly no helpful information from them.
“We’re not hearing anything from the league or anything like that,” Hyde said. “Today’s Thursday and we travel early on Saturday. So, I guess we kinda need to know what’s going on. It’s crazy… but then again, it’s 2020. Expect the unexpected this year.”
“It’s really up in the air. I think it’s an ongoing evolving situation. All parties involved are trying to do the right thing,” Mitch Morse said. “Getting this game going is of the utmost importance, but not at the cost of players’ health.”
It’s possible the league could decide to delay the Bills-Titans game to Monday or Tuesday, at least for now. A similar timeline happened with the Titans-Steelers game last week before it was ultimately decided to postpone the game to a later week accommodated by the Tennessee and Pittsburgh bye weeks.
The Bills and Titans have no such mutual day off. If the game cannot be played this weekend, it would likely have to be made up after the season is over. It could also be canceled or forfeited.
Hyde definitely wants to play the game this weekend and speaks for many of his teammates. However, there is another reason the Bills would like to play.
It’s possible that a forfeited win would mean the players would have forfeit their game checks as well. The NFL and the NFL Players Association negotiated many new rules and payment structures for this Covid season. There is language that players would not be paid for games that are not played.
It’s unclear if this clause would apply to a forfeit. The Bills don’t want to find out.
“I don’t know of anybody that wants to lose money because of something that they couldn’t control,” Cody Ford said. “It’s gonna hurt not to get paid, but I would rather be healthy than rich.”
A few Titans were reportedly practicing on their own last week in violation of NFL protocols. Later Thursday, that report was updated to claim the practicing included multiple workouts in different locations. It’s unclear how the league will deal with this misconduct, but a forfeit seems a possibility.
The Bills don’t only have their game checks to worry about. Their safety could be at risk taking the field if the Titans have Covid positives they don’t yet know about.
“When we committed after the opt out period to play the game, we understood situations like this would happen,” Morse said. “We trust that everyone in positions to take care of us (will do so) to the utmost of their ability. If they don’t deem it safe, we don’t play. And if they deem that we can safely play this game, we’ll play.”
Player safety is also a concern on the Titans side. If the game does happen this weekend, the Tennessee players will prepare with nearly two weeks off and one full practice, at best. Morse called that kind of scenario a “nightmare”.
“When you don’t physically work out and run around, that’s when injuries happen,” Hyde said. He added that it’s possible to learn a game plan all week virtually and be mentally ready to play, but “safety is a problem.”
The Bills are scheduled to play the Chiefs on Thursday the following week. If the game in Nashville is moved to Monday or Tuesday, then the Chiefs game in Orchard Park will also have to move. Saturday is being discussed as a possibility.
All anyone can do is wait.