As of the time of this writing, there exists the possibility that the Tennessee Titans may play on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers with only having undertaken a walkthrough on Saturday in preparation for the game, with all of the rest of their prep work consisting of virtual meetings and film study and whatever players may have done on their own time.
If that is how it is, then that is how it is. According to Mike Garafolo, that is the message that Titans coaches are conveying to their players, making it clear that there will be “no excuses” if they have to play the game with minimal physical in-game preparation.
It is not clear at what point the Titans will be permitted to enter their facilities in order to conduct their business. The league shut down their practice as well as that of the Minnesota Vikings after eight members of the Titans organization tested positive for the coronavirus. Tennessee just played Minnesota, of course, though they so far have had no positive cases.
The league reportedly instructed the teams to expect at least a 24- to 48-hour window during which they will not have access to their facility, but it could potentially last longer than that, perhaps as long as Saturday.
It is not clear if, provided that tests are clean, they may be permitted to hold in-person practices earlier than that at an outside venue if they are still unable to access their facility until too late in the week in order to get in a proper week of practice.
It is already getting late in the week, quite frankly, and decisions need to be made as to what the next steps will be, but one thing that is clear is this: as long as the game is played, all teams involved will be expected to accept the circumstances as-is, as a predictable consequence of playing a season through a pandemic.
This may affect competitive balance, but NFL and all 32 teams knew that this was a potential outcome. With only one bye week, there is minimal flexibility built into the schedule without actually extending the season, and how you can manage to do that when it only affects a few teams and not all 32 is difficult to ascertain.
Do you add another bye week or two into the season if it really becomes an issue in order for teams to have the room to make up games? Do you simply allow some teams to play fewer than 16 games and go by their overall winning percentage in order to determine seeding?
Hopefully these are questioned that won’t require an answer, although the league should already be working on the answers to these questions in the event that they become necessary.