The NFL Is Forcing the Issue Again With Titans-Bills Game

Joshua Kalu
Tennessee Titans | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans will take the field for the first time since September 27 tonight as they take on the Buffalo Bills in only the second iteration of NFL Tuesday Night Football this century. The Titans suffered a COVID-19 outbreak in the days following their Week 3 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, and the situation snowballed to the point where over 20 members of the organization tested positive and the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed.

This time last week, as more positive tests continued to roll in, it seemed like the Titans would have to postpone this game against the Bills. That likelihood grew stronger on Sunday when Tennessee had another staff member register a positive test. But, since there have been no positive tests over the last two days, the game will go on tonight.

That series of events should seem somewhat familiar because it is rather similar to what occurred with the New England Patriots and the Kanas City Chiefs one week ago. Cam Newton tested positive on Saturday. Because nobody tested positive on Sunday or Monday morning, the NFL directed the Patriots to fly to KC on Monday, play the game, and fly home that night. The next day, it was announced that Stephon Gilmore tested positive for coronavirus. The same Stephon Gilmore who played 100 percent of the defensive snaps on Monday and hugged Patrick Mahomes after the game ended.

Since that happened, the Patriots had a few more players test positive and were forced to postpone their game against the Denver Broncos this past Sunday. The Chiefs, fortunately, seem to have avoided an outbreak of similar scope, but they did have a staff member test positive over the weekend. All in all, the NFL avoided a huge disaster by what appears to be the skin of its teeth. And yet, they appear to be rolling the dice, again, by allowing Titans-Bills to go on,.

The Titans were allowed to open up their facility again on Saturday after a week and a half of shutdown following news of the first positive test. They enjoyed use of the buildings for exactly one day. Then a staff member tested positive on Sunday. A staff member who was, presumably, in the building with them the day prior. In that case, an unknown amount of people on the team came into some kind of contact with someone who tested positive. As we saw just last week, it can take several days for someone to test positive after contracting the virus. In the worst-case scenario here, there are now multiple members of the Titans who will be stepping onto the field tonight just two days after being in the same building as someone who tested positive.

Did the NFL not learn its lesson? Or is it just a dedication to plowing forward no matter what, knowing the risk but believing the reward to be worth it? I cannot tell you. But it is difficult to believe that the NFL, with all the money and resources it has, does not recognize the huge chance it's taking tonight. The last time the decision was made to hold a game two days after a positive test, we came awfully close to a multi-team breakout and a superstar player catching coronavirus from another superstar player. One week later, the NFL is willing to try its luck once more.

It's baffling. Yes, rescheduling games is complicated and annoying, but the bizarre determination to hold to the standard schedule in a very not-standard year is proving to be dangerous. Hopefully, the decision to hold Titans-Bills tonight doesn't prove to be as such.