For three weeks, the NFL seemed to be operating like usual. Save for the lack of fans in the stands, it looks like football wouldn’t have any problems navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then there was an outbreak in the Tennessee Titans organization, forcing the team to shut down in-person activities until at least Saturday. Meanwhile, the Titans’ Week 3 opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, evacuated their facilities and started working remotely as well. Then on Wednesday, the NFL announced the Titans’ Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be postponed until Monday or Tuesday.
In the age of COVID, everything is fine until it suddenly isn’t. Over the course of two days, the NFL has gone from smooth sailing to revealing how razor-thin the margin of error is for teams this season.
So far, the New England Patriots have had a clean slate. No Patriots players have been added to the league’s COVID-19/reserve list. Additionally, there have been no cases reported throughout the organization.
However, the situation in Tennessee serves as a reminder of just how quickly things can go south when dealing with the coronavirus.
“It’s scary, just how fast things like that can happen,” wide receiver Damiere Byrd said. “Just when you get settled into a routine, you’re reminded that COVID’s still out there and it’s still very contagious.”
While the Titans’ situation has reinforced the sense of danger for those around the league, it doesn’t change the guidelines and daily procedures players and staffers need to follow. As always in New England, limiting the spread of the coronavirus comes down to doing your job.
“We just have to continue to be smart with the things we do off the field and also in the building,” cornerback Joejuan Williams said. “Just wearing our masks, making sure we’re socially distanced and staying on top of the things we continue to do since we first got here in training camp.”
The Pats’ mindset when dealing with COVID-19 falls right in stride with how the team usually handles onfield successes. Win a game? Good, now it’s on to next week. Win a Super Bowl? Good, but that won’t help you win games next season.
Go a couple of months without anyone contracting COVID-19? Good, but that doesn’t change how careful you need to be.
“It’s obviously a good reminder for all of us of the situation that we’re in,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “Regardless of what we have or haven’t done up to this point, it really is about what we do each day going forward, making the right decisions and controlling what we can control. So, we’ll try to continue to do that.”
The Patriots’ schedule hasn’t been affected by the pandemic. The team is still set to play Sunday at Kansas City Chiefs, one of the few teams in the NFL that is letting a limited number of fans attend games.
As of Wednesday, there have been no changes announced in regards to fan attendance for Sunday’s game.