NASHVILLE – Titans coach Mike Vrabel broke the news to his team during a video conference call this morning – this weekend's game against the Steelers won't be played as originally scheduled in Week 4.
Not Sunday, not Monday, and not even Tuesday. According to the NFL, the game will be rescheduled for later this season in light of two more recent positive COVID-19 tests.
The bye week starts now, Vrabel said.
"I think they were somewhat shocked – they wanted to play, and they were preparing to play," Vrabel said of his team. "But I think that they understood and realized why the decision was made. They'll handle this like they handle everything else. They'll handle it with professionalism, with understanding and a compassion towards not only ourselves and those people that have been affected, but also Pittsburgh. The Steelers were preparing for a game and now they'll have their scheduled changed as well."
Vrabel said he instructed the players and staff, in light of the recent positive tests, to not gather until they can find a safe way to reenter Saint Thomas Sports Park, hopefully by Monday or Tuesday.
At that time, the Titans will begin preparations for the Oct. 11 game against the Buffalo Bills at Nissan Stadium.
What happens to the Steelers game, as far as when it will be rescheduled, will be determined in the coming days, per the NFL.
"I told (the players) to try to mentally recover from an emotional few days so that we can proceed with our season and build on a 3-0 start – that was my message to them," Vrabel said.
"I've asked the players to decompress mentally, to try and take care of their bodies. And those players that are on the injury report to await instructions on when they would be able to go into treatment, with just a small numbers of players at a time with masks and face shields. I asked the staff to get away, to not meet, to not worry about Buffalo, to relax and to focus on moving ahead. That's what I asked them all to do."
On Thursday morning, the league released this statement one day after indicating it hoped to play the game, originally scheduled for this Sunday, on Monday or Tuesday:
"The Pittsburgh-Tennessee game scheduled for Week 4 will be rescheduled to later this season after one additional Titans player and one personnel member tested positive for COVID-19 today. An announcement of the new game date will be made shortly.
"The decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel. The Titans facility will remain closed and the team will continue to have no in-person activities until further notice."
On Wednesday, the Titans added outside linebacker Kamalei Correa to the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list, one day after defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and tight end Tommy Hudson from the team's practice squad were added to the list on Tuesday.
The new reserve list category was created for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons. If a player falls into either of these categories, his club is required to immediately place the player on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Per agreed upon NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on player's medical status other than referring to roster status. Clubs may not disclose whether player is in quarantine or is positive for COVID-19.
On Monday, Vrabel said Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen did not travel with the team to Minneapolis for Sunday's game due to COVID-19 testing protocols. Vrabel said other members of the organization have also tested positive.
Vrabel said the Titans will continue to test for COVID-19 through Monday, even though players won't be allowed in the building. Vrabel said he's confident the Titans have followed the league's protocols during the process, but he understands the league will likely ask the team to follow different protocols now.
Vrabel said some of the Titans players and staff who tested positive have experienced symptoms, but he said others have not.
"But I would say people are starting to feel better," he said.
Vrabel said he'll do everything he can to get the team get ready to play moving forward.
"We are focused, as a team right now, on using these next few days as we would our normal bye week, to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for a push for the rest of the season. That's what I explained to the team," Vrabel said.
"I was part of a team (with the Patriots) in 2001, after 9/11, that played 14 straight (regular season games) and then won the Super Bowl that year. So however many we have to play in a row, that's what we'll prepare for, but our singular focus is on the next week, which would be Buffalo."