NASHVILLE – In a perfect world, the Titans would face the challenge of kicking off the NFL season in a jam-packed stadium in Denver on Monday night before returning home to a sellout crowd at Nissan Stadium the following week.
The coronavirus, of course, has disrupted plans everywhere, and forced teams across the NFL to make adjustments.
The Titans are among those getting creative, while remaining hopeful fans will be allowed to watch games in Nashville during the 2020 season.
On Monday, Titans President and CEO Burke Nihill and Titans Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer Gil Beverly answered questions from reporters on a variety of topics during a video conference call.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest topics centered on the possibility of fans at Titans games this fall. Last month, Nashville Mayor John Cooper and the Titans announced that the team's home opener against the Jaguars on Sept. 20 would be held without fans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Titans have three homes games scheduled in October, beginning with the Oct. 4 contest against the Steelers.
"We remain hopeful and ready to host fans if we are to get that opportunity, but that's really a question for the Mayor's office and we respect the Mayor's decision and trust the Mayor's decision," Nihill said. "As he said last week, 'This is a national response, not a Nashville response' in terms of being slow about reopening facilities like our venue. … I don't want to put words in his mouth, or in the mouth of his health department, but I think that they would agree with us that we believe the Titans gameday experience that we have put forth in our safe stadium plan is first class, and it would allow us to safely host fans if we were to be given the opportunity."
Nihill said the organization began working on limited seating plans back in March, and team officials have been meeting weekly since. Nihill said the organization has been actively engaged with the Mayor's office in recent weeks.
Using a table/pod-based seating chart of 1 to 6 fans that are socially-distanced from every other pod of fans, the Titans believe a plan that would allow roughly 21-22 percent into the 69,000-seat stadium would be safe, but the team has also looked at figures less than that amount. The NFL has mandated masks for every fan at games across the country. Beverly said the Titans have had fewer season ticket members opt-out compared to what the league average is across the NFL.
"And we are confident that, if given the opportunity, we'll be able to deliver on (providing a safe environment)," Nihill said. "I do think there is reason for hope for October, but it's very preliminary to be thinking about whether or not we'll get that green light."
So, what will the stadium atmosphere look like when the team kicks off at home on September 20?
Beverly said the team is doing its best to create a home-field advantage even without fans.
"There's only so much we can do in this environment in terms of how we can attack the in-game environment with no fans," Beverly said. "But we will be running something of a "normal" show in terms of the in-stadium elements with the music and introductions and things that will hopefully fire up our team. We also have done a program where fans will be able to buy cutouts of themselves that will appear in one of the end zones. At least if you can't be there in body, you can be there in spirit."
Also, this season Titans are using the bunting and signage in the lower bowl, previously dedicated to Titans greats Steve McNair and Eddie George during a year when their jersey numbers were retired, to focus on celebrating the team's founding PSL members, and biggest fans. The fan cutouts sold by the team will benefit the Titans Foundation.
"So, if nothing else, our players will be surrounded by friendly faces as they play," Beverly said.
The artificial crowd noise will be provided by the NFL to teams without fans in the stands. The audio will run through the production studio at Nissan Stadium, and it's specific in terms of decibel levels provided by the league.
Leading up to Kickoff Weekend, the Titans are also doing their best to energize the city, and the team's fan base.
As part of Kickoff Week, the team hosted five happy hours in and around the Nashville area on Monday night.
The team is also handing out over 15,000 'Tennessee Tough' yard signs.
Here's a look at all the upcoming events for fans:
-Tuesday, Sept. 8 – Saturday, Sept. 12, Titan Up the Town: Free yard signs will be distributed at all Nashville-area Academy Sports + Outdoors and Tiff's Treats locations, select Kroger stores and the Titans Pro Shop at Nissan Stadium until supplies last.
-Thursday, Sept. 10, Titans Pop-Up Shop at Fort Houston, 6 - 10 p.m.: Retro 90s-themed Titans clothing will be available for a one-night only event featuring a food truck, live artists and a DJ.
-Friday, Sept. 11, Titans Drive-in Movie at The Park at Franklin, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.: The Titans will host two screenings of "Remember the Titans" at The Park at Franklin. Tickets must be pre-purchased at www.tennesseetitans.com/kickoff. Food trucks and free Titans yard signs will be available.
-Monday, Sept. 14, Titans Gameday Hangouts, 8 p.m.: The Titans' season opener can be viewed at over 35 Titans Gameday Hangout locations, with cheerleaders and Titans alumni making appearances at three locations: Party Fowl in Franklin and Murfreesboro and Jonathan's Grille in Hendersonville. To find a Titans Gameday Hangout location near you, visit www.tennesseetitans.com/hangouts.
"We're excited because we have a ton of momentum with our fans coming out of last year's playoff run," Beverly said. "And we've seen that reflected in the enthusiasm and anticipation for the start of this season."