The NFL’s struggles with the novel coronavirus worsened Wednesday with positive tests by New England Patriots standout cornerback Stephon Gilmore, two more Tennessee Titans players and a Las Vegas Raiders player.

The test results, confirmed by a person familiar with them, put the playing of this weekend’s games involving the Titans and Patriots in doubt after both teams had their games this past Sunday postponed. They also kept the Titans from reopening their facility Wednesday, as they had hoped, and the probe by the league and the NFL Players Association into the team’s outbreak widened.

The NFL is not giving serious consideration to pausing the season or going to home market bubbles with mandatory hotel stays for players, coaches and team staffers when they leave team facilities each day, according to a person with knowledge of the league’s thinking. The NFL remains firmly convinced that its protocols work when they’re followed. The league has given preliminary consideration to adding an 18th week to the regular season to accommodate further postponed games, according to two people familiar with the league’s planning.

According to two people familiar with the league’s investigation into the Titans’ outbreak, that investigation includes looking into whether some players gathered away from the team’s facility last week for impermissible workouts. Journalist Paul Kuharsky reported on his website that a group of Titans, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, worked out Sept. 30 at a private school in Nashville.

The Titans are expected to face significant discipline by the NFL if the improper workouts are corroborated, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who added that the scope of the potential penalties was not clear yet.

Week 4 opp.
Week 5 opp.
at Chiefs
vs. Broncos
vs. Bills
at Chiefs
bye (game vs. Steelers ppd.)
vs. Bills

“Guys just don’t work out for fun,” Titans guard Rodger Saffold wrote on Twitter, adding that “this is for their [livelihood], their family, their opportunity. Say what you want but I’m standing up for my team always.”

The team had been directed that such gatherings away from its facility should not occur. Coach Mike Vrabel has said repeatedly since last week that he is confident his team has complied with the protocols. The Titans did not respond to a request for additional comment.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to teams Monday, sent after the league had conducted a call that day with head coaches and general managers to stress adherence to the protocols, that violations of the protocols necessitating schedule changes or affecting other teams could result in game forfeits or the loss of draft picks.

The Patriots’ facility was closed Wednesday. The Raiders were permitted to practice because they had only one positive test, according to a person familiar with the situation. It was too soon to know about the status of this Sunday’s games, according to that person. The Titans are scheduled to play the Buffalo Bills in Nashville. The Patriots are to host the Denver Broncos in Foxborough, Mass. The Raiders are to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo.

The Titans have had the league’s first team outbreak. Their game this past Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Nashville was postponed by the NFL until Oct. 25; 18 members of the organization, including nine players and nine non-players, tested positive in a six-day span ending Sunday. But two straight days with no further positive test results had left the Titans hopeful they would be permitted to reopen their facility Wednesday.

The setback, combined with the positive tests in New England and Las Vegas, provided another reminder of the difficulties facing the league as it attempts to operate during the pandemic.

“The virus is still very much a threat not only to our season, but to the safety of everyone in our community,” Thom Mayer, the NFLPA’s medical director, said in a written statement Wednesday.

The Patriots played Monday night at Kansas City. That game had been postponed from Sunday because of positive tests on both teams. Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive, according to a person familiar with that result, and did not play. The Patriots traveled Monday morning to Kansas City for the game in two planes, one for players who had been exposed to Newton and another for players who had not been exposed to him.

Bill Murray, a defensive lineman on the Patriots’ practice squad, reportedly was placed on the team’s covid-19 reserve list Tuesday.

Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, told NFL Network that the league was “obviously concerned” about the Chiefs as well as the Patriots, adding: “We’re monitoring that situation very, very carefully, and again, we’ll have to take it day by day in terms of the best decision for everyone involved.”

Gilmore, last season’s NFL defensive player of the year, confirmed his positive test on social media, thanking well-wishers in a Twitter post in which he wrote: “I’m currently asymptomatic and will take this as it comes. … I’ve followed every protocol, yet it happened to me. Please be sure to take this seriously.”

He played in Monday night’s loss to the Chiefs and was photographed speaking with Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the field after the game.

“Obviously I had a little lapse at the end of the game, just trying to show respect to a great football player who I hope is getting better very quickly,” Mahomes said during a video news conference Wednesday. “And I’ll try to keep away from that and try not to do it again.”

The Raiders reportedly placed defensive lineman Maurice Hurst on their covid-19 reserve list Tuesday. Coach Jon Gruden and the organization have been fined for failures to comply with the NFL’s protocols.

The league sent updated coronavirus protocols Tuesday to teams. Goodell wrote in Monday’s memo that the NFL would use a video surveillance system to monitor teams’ compliance at their facilities.

“Simply put, compliance is mandatory,” Goodell wrote. “Now is the time to recommit ourselves to our protocols and best practices for the duration of the season.”