NASHVILLE — Another player and another staff member for the Tennessee Titans have tested positive for the coronavirus, but the rest of the NFL returned no new positives Sunday, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The Titans' outbreak is now at 20 cases, with the 18 positive tests returned since Tuesday including fullback Khari Blasingame, who was added to the COVID-19 reserve list on Sunday. The person who confirmed the two new cases involving Tennessee spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither the NFL nor the Titans had announced the latest results.
The attention on results for all teams in the league increased Sunday in the wake of the Titans' outbreak and the NFL's announcement Saturday that the New England Patriots' game against the Kansas City Chiefs was postponed after a quarterback for each team tested positive — Patriots starter Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad player Jordan Ta'amu.
On Sunday, the day the Patriots were scheduled to visit the reigning Super Bowl champions, the NFL said their game would be played Monday at 7:05 p.m. EDT, with CBS remaining the network for the telecast. That also led to Monday night's Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers game on ESPN being pushed back to an 8:50 EDT kickoff.
Newton wrote Sunday on Instagram that he'll use his time off from football to "get healthy and self reflect on the other amazing things that I should be grateful for."
The negative test results Sunday included New Orleans Saints fullback Michael Burton, who falsely tested positive on Saturday, a person familiar with the situation said. The Saints learned of the positive test after leaving New Orleans for Sunday's game at Detroit and ran another series of tests on players and staff overnight.
The Saints beat the Lions 35-29 on Sunday, the same day the Minnesota Vikings won on the road against the Houston Texans, 31-23. Minnesota's preparation was interrupted last week as it was temporarily shut out of its facility because the Vikings had just hosted the Titans, who won 31-30 to improve to 3-0.
After the game against the Texans, Vikings coach MIke Zimmer said one of his team's starters had a false positive COVID-19 result from a point-of-contact test before the game and had to take two more tests at the stadium before he was cleared to play. The team also had three other players whose tests were inconclusive and had to retake tests, forcing them to turn in their inactive player list about 10 minutes late.
The NFL will hold a conference call Monday with all 32 teams to reinforce the necessity of following its COVID-19 protocol — including changes made since the outbreak involving the Titans — provide updates on testing and contact tracing and to share best practices. Officials from the NFL and its players' union met with the Titans on Friday to review the situation and investigate whether any guidelines were ignored.
Sunday marked the sixth straight day at least one member of the Tennessee organization had a positive test result return. The Titans had hoped to get back into their building Monday or Tuesday, but they must go consecutive days without a single positive result before that can happen.
Wednesday now is the earliest they can get back in their facility, and it's also the day they would start practicing to prepare to host the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.
Tennessee's outbreak appears to have started Sept. 24, when it placed practice squad cornerback Greg Mabin on the COVID-19 reserve list. Then outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen's test result came back positive two days later, and he did not travel with the Titans to Minnesota.
After the NFL announced the Titans' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers would not be played at all in the fourth week of the season, the league rescheduled it for Oct. 25, which would have been an open date for Tennessee. The league also moved the Baltimore Ravens' open date to Oct. 25 so they now can play Pittsburgh on Nov. 1, and the Steelers and the Titans both had their off week much earlier than expected.
Any further outbreaks could cause much more juggling of the schedule, with speculation that the NFL could extend the regular season into January and push the playoffs and Super Bowl back on the 2021 calendar.