Given the temperature of the NFL waters regarding COVID-19, it appears the Tennessee Titans might be in danger of being seen as an NFL version of the Houston Astros.
Granted, the Titans are not going to have coaches on the sideline banging on a trashcan to let Ryan Tannehill know a blitz is coming. But the wrath we saw early in the baseball season for the Astros and their cheating scandal is some of the same vigilante justice mentality we now see in the wake of the Titans’ coronavirus outbreak and their handling of it.
As of Sunday, when another staff member tested positive and the Titans facility had to be closed again – just one day after it opened after 11 days of shut down – it brought the number of positive COVID-19 tests to 24 within the organization, including 13 players.
There were reports by any number of websites and publications that the NFL is ready to “hammer” the Titans, in the words of a report from profootballtalk.com. The NFL, in conjunction with the Players Association, is conducting a thorough investigation of the matter, including that the Titans players may have acted in violation of league orders by having players gather offsite to practice after the facility was originally shut down Sept. 29.
When coach Mike Vrabel, Tannehill and safety Kevin Byard spoke with the media in the first access in several days since the shutdown, they wisely said they would wait for the NFL to render a decision before commenting.
Once the probe is finished, there was speculation the Titans’ punishment could be severe. That could men losing draft picks, heavy fines, suspensions and some have even called for them to forfeit.
The Titans find themselves under the microscope and – fairly or not – find themselves branded as someone who broke the rules intentionally or didn’t take them seriously enough and allowed the coronavirus outbreak.
Titans’ players took offense to such accusations and slaps at them and the organization.
“Just certain comments about we should forfeit, different comments like that kind of frustrated me,” Byard said. “We're in a pandemic. I just believe that if anybody went into this season thinking that there weren't going to be any positive tests or outbreaks of all 32 teams, I think that's kind of foolish. Obviously, we weren't trying be the team that had the outbreak. We're not trying to get COVID-19, so I think it is what it is, but I definitely took note of it.”
Tannehill said he vitriol the Titans are experiencing from all-comers on social media is a sign of the times in which we live.
“It's easy to jump to conclusions and jump down someone's throat; it’s a snap reaction society that we live in today,” Tannehill said. “People feel very empowered to have strong opinions and really go to extremes without knowing the details and how things actually went down. At the end of the day, it doesn't affect me if someone has an outlandish opinion. I'm of the opinion that you should really speak for yourself and find out some more details before you jump down someone's throat.”
For his part, Vrabel is trying not to focus on the outside noise and the negative slant pointed toward the organization.
“I'm sure that this won't be the first time that somebody says something bad about us or one of our players or one of our coaches or me or our team,” Vrabel said. “We're very confident in the people that we have here in this building and the ones we get to come to work with every day.”
Terry McCormick is the founder and editor of titaninsider.com and has covered the Tennessee Titans since 1997. TitanInsider.com was founded in 2010 and is one of the leading media outlets covering the local NFL team with a presence online, on social media, radio and television. TitanInsider.com is published in partnership with Main Street Media of Middle Tennessee.