The Pittsburgh Steelers, so far, are the only team in the NFL who have had their game moved to another week due to a Covid-19 outbreak within their scheduled opponent’s organization. The Tennessee Titans, who have now had no new positive tests for two consecutive days, had new positives for nearly a week straight, with 20 cases in total.
The NFL and the NFLPA have been in Tennessee conducting an investigation into the causes and nature of the outbreak, in large part in an effort to determine whether or not and to what extent negligence on the part of the organization or individuals within the organization originated or exacerbated the outbreak.
If negligence is found, the league has already made it clear that disciplinary action could be taken. In a memo yesterday, commissioner Roger Goodell went so far as to include the adjustment of draft picks and the forfeiture of games as possibilities on the extreme end for violations that require the adjustment of the league’s schedule.
Mike Tomlin, the Steelers’ head coach who has had to deal with the consequences of Tennessee’s outbreak, was asked to weigh in on the possibility of teams being required to forfeit a game in the event that negligence causes that game to be moved.
“I don’t have a strong opinion about that. I’m not involved in the investigative group that determines negligence and so forth”, he said. “Sure, there should be a penalty for negligence because it’s a one-fail-all-fail mentality in the environment that we’re in. But to the extent of what it should be and all of that, that’s not my charge. I’ve been focused on running this football outfit and making sure that we’re adhering to the protocols that are delivered to us out of New York”.
Given the timing of the Titans’ outbreak and when Goodell’s memo was issued, I think it would be awfully surprising if the league when so far as to punish Tennessee with a forfeiture of the Steelers game in the event that they do find they were negligent.
A hefty fine is certainly likely. Perhaps they might even suffer the loss or adjustment (meaning dropping a pick from a higher round to a lower round) of a draft selection. But the NFL has already rearranged the schedule to accommodate the issue, even making the Baltimore Ravens’ bye week.
On a certain level, it would obviously be very nice for the Steelers. They would have a second ‘bye’ week coming up in a few weeks, and would get a free victory out of it, if the league went so far as to forfeit the Titans game on Tennessee’s behalf.
But do we really want to go there unless we have to? Is that the slope we want to slip on? No other league that has had interruptions in the schedule because of outbreaks has had teams forfeit games. At worst, they simple canceled the games.