GM had personal stake in protecting Titans from COVID-19

By Teresa M. Walker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson has a very personal stake in keeping the Titans safe during the coronavirus pandemic. He hopes people around the NFL understand he has tried to do everything the right way.

His oldest daughter, Taylor, has several auto-immune issues, including Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

“We try to do everything we can to protect her and keep her safe because exposing her to this, it would be really, really serious for her,” Robinson said Monday.

Robinson noted that’s why the Titans worked hard to follow all protocols to protect everyone connected with the franchise. Still, the Titans wound up with the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak, with a total of 24 players and personnel testing positive since Sept. 24.

No, the Titans (3-0) have not heard from the NFL or the players union on any punishment, and Robinson said whether discipline is warranted is not for him to decide. He has heard some of the calls for heavy punishment for a team that has had two games rescheduled because of the outbreak.

“We’ve been extremely transparent with both groups with our situation as they try to piece things together,” Robinson said of the NFL and the NFL Players Association. “So that we can put some things in place that this doesn’t happen again.”

Asked if this outbreak was preventable, Robinson said he’s wracked his brain trying to figure out what happened. Learning more details about the incubation period also has been “eye opening.”

“All it takes is as a small window of opportunity, it seems, for this thing to find its way in and have an impact,” Robinson said.

The Titans added buses for their trip to the Nashville airport and in Minnesota on Sept. 26 after outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen tested positive. Robinson said he and coach Mike Vrabel already had sent everyone home and closed the Titans’ facility Sept. 29 after three players and five personnel tested positive.

The NFL followed soon after with guidelines for the Titans to follow.

Robinson said since this outbreak the Titans added two HEPA filtration systems, one for the locker room and the other for the cafeteria where all tables have been removed. They also moved 26 lockers to the indoor practice field where lockers and chairs are now 8 feet apart instead of 6 feet.

The NFL and the players association have updated protocols to follow both for the league’s 32 teams and also new guidelines for teams dealing with an outbreak or exposed to a team with an outbreak.

New England is dealing with its own outbreak with four people testing positive, including quarterback Cam Newton and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots closed their facility last week and have had two games rescheduled as well.

Nine teams now have been affected by the rescheduling, some over a period of weeks through Nov. 22: New England, Tennessee, Denver, Buffalo, Kansas City, Miami, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets and Jacksonville.

Denver’s game at New England, originally scheduled for Sunday and then moved to Monday night when the Patriots had more positive COVID-19 tests, now will be played next Sunday afternoon. Kansas City’s game at Buffalo, which was supposed to be played Thursday night, has been moved to next Monday.

Tennessee returned two of the three players put on reserve/COVID-19 list that day to the active roster on Sunday in defensive captain DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley.

The Titans remain on track to host Buffalo (4-0) on Tuesday night. The NFL allowed Tennessee to practice with only players, coaches and trainers Sunday after the team closed its facility following a staff member testing positive.

Robinson said one player had some symptoms and was held out of that practice. That player was clear Monday.

So will one positive test result Tuesday morning postpone the Bills-Titans game?

“I’m erring on the side of positive thinking,” Robinson said. “It’s positive mojo here. I say my daily prayers anyway, but I would say my prayer game has increased drastically over the last 10 days and it will be extremely strong this evening before my head hits the pillow.”

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