NFL could force Titans to forfeit game after another player tests positive for COVID-19

The NFL is entering crisis mode after another Tennessee Titans player tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning, bringing into question the possibility of the team having to forfeit Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills — which would mark a historic moment in football history.

The league is exploring its options after another positive case in Tennessee has forced the Titans’ training facility to remain closed after an outbreak that seemingly began Sept. 24 has seen at least 23 players and staff members test positive, according to multiple reports.

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Sentiment about the NFL’s schedule is grim as the Titans were forced to reschedule their Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers for later this month, and with no more bye weeks to spare, there is a growing feeling that Tennessee will be forced to forfeit against the Bills.

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 clubs this week stressing the importance of following the league’s safety protocols, and in that letter he informed teams that the NFL would be able to threaten forfeiture of games if they do not comply.

“Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game,” read the memo, obtained by the Associated Press.

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The Titans could find themselves at the mercy of the league after reports surfaced Wednesday that several players took part in an unauthorized workout offsite after the outbreak had begun. Nothing has been confirmed, but who knew and when they knew about it could impact the NFL’s decision.

Another layer of a forfeiture is players not being paid for games not played. The Bills nor the Titans may be paid in this situation under the revised COVID-19 agreement, but the Bills players are still focused on playing Sunday, ESPN reported.

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If Sunday’s game is postponed, reports indicate there is an option that it would be rescheduled to Monday or Tuesday, which would push the Bills game against the Kansas City Chiefs, originally scheduled for Thursday, to Saturday.

Trouble for Tennessee began last month when the Titans added cornerback Greg Mabin from its practice squad to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Since then, a number of players and staff members tested positive. Thursday’s positive case brought the total number to 23, but the NFL Network reported that an inconclusive test on Wednesday came back positive the following day.

There has never been a forfeited game in NFL history. The possibility of forfeiture in the middle of the NFL season would be historic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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