Meanwhile, as the league and NFLPA try to determine the origins of the outbreak involving the Tennessee Titans, the team could face discipline by the NFL if it is found to have been noncompliant with the protocols.
The preliminary consideration of an 18th week to the season, Monday’s conference call and the possibility of disciplinary measures against the Titans were all confirmed Sunday by multiple people familiar with the NFL’s planning.
Two games originally scheduled for Sunday were postponed. The Titans’ game in Nashville against the Pittsburgh Steelers was rescheduled for Oct. 25 in Week 7. The New England Patriots’ game in Kansas City, Mo., against the Chiefs is now scheduled to be played Monday night. Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive, a person familiar with the result said Saturday.
The New Orleans Saints’ game in Detroit was played as scheduled Sunday after a rerun of a test of a Saints player, reportedly fullback Michael Burton, came back negative Sunday morning, according to a person familiar with the testing results. That test result had returned Saturday night as positive.
The postponements were the first of the season as the NFL operates during the pandemic with teams training in their own facilities, based in their home cities and playing home games in their own stadiums. The first three weeks of the season were played without any disruptions to the schedule, but things have changed in Week 4.
Adding a Week 18 would give the NFL additional schedule flexibility. Currently, each team is scheduled to play 16 games over a 17-week season, with one bye week. The 18th week could be added without pushing back the Super Bowl if the bye week before the Super Bowl is eliminated. The playoffs would start a week later.
The 18th week is “a contingency that’s been discussed,” according to a person with knowledge of the deliberations. Another person cautioned that such talks are in the very early stages. According to that person, there has been “no serious discussion of Week 18 yet.”
For now, the NFL seems to believe that teams’ compliance with the coronavirus protocols, not the protocols themselves, is the issue. The importance of adherence to the protocols will be reinforced during the league’s call Monday with the coaches and GMs, according to one of those people with knowledge of the NFL’s planning, who characterized the call as a check-in after four weeks to go over what has been learned and best practices moving forward.
The Titans’ outbreak continues to grow. One additional player and one more team staffer has tested positive, a person familiar with the results said Sunday. That means 18 members of the organization — nine players and nine non-players — have tested positive over the past week.
The league and the players’ union are studying the origins of the outbreak. Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said repeatedly last week that the team has complied with the protocols. But the team could face disciplinary measures if that’s found not to have been the case.