Independent investigator would set up better answers for NFL and Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In July, Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder hired Beth Wilkinson to investigate reports of workplace issues within his franchise.

The move was greeted with widespread objections. How could an investigator reporting to the person heading the franchise being investigated possibly bring impartial eyes to the case?

The NFL took over the case on Aug. 31, with Wilkinson told to report to the league.

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Now, with the Tennessee Titans caught up in a pandemic mess that has seen 12 players and nine staffers test positive for COVID-19, resulting in the postponement of one game and uncertainty regarding Sunday’s scheduled matchup against the Bills in Nashville, the NFL and the NFLPA have been investigating the team.

Violations of the NFL’s protocols may result in stiff penalties against the Titans.

But as a Snyder hire would have had a vested interest in Washington’s side of an investigation, the NFL itself has a vested interest in the NFL’s side of an investigation.

I don’t doubt the Titans have made mistakes and committed violations. I don’t know to what degree. I reported on workouts that took place after an NFL source says the team was instructed that there be no gatherings, at the team’s shuttered facility or elsewhere.

The NFL, however, wants to prove its protocols are working and should work. And it simply does not account for a positive test result showing up on a Saturday morning for a team scheduled to travel that afternoon.

COVID 19The first batch of Titans' positive tests may have been enhanced by failures to follow other elements of the protocols. But the system was set up for a situation where transmission was not only possible but likely, right?

Guys who likely had contact with Shane Bowen, from whom they could have gotten COVID-19, were soon put on multiple busses and two flights in the space of two days – as physically spaced out and masked as they may have been.

If there was nothing wrong with that setup, why did the NFL change it a week later?

Cam Newton got a positive test result back on roughly the same timeline as Shane Bowen did.

Rather than have the Patriots leave for Kansas City and play Sunday as the Titans did for their game in Minnesota, the NFL postponed the game until Monday night. The Patriots then flew two planes, dividing players who were exposed to Newton from players who were not.

Never mind the two planes.

If the protocol that sent the Titans to Minnesota after Bowen’s positive was sound, why didn’t the NFL send the Patriots to Kansas City in the exact same fashion?

The NFL investigated Spygate in 2007. Roger Goodell and the NFL investigated Bountygate in 2012 and retired Paul Tagliabue heard the appeals.

But in 2014 they brought in outsider Robert Muller to handle the Ray Rice case in Baltimore and in 2015 they looked to Ted Wells on Deflategate.

Yes, Muller and Wells were still, to some degree, beholden to their employer and their findings were hardly greeted with universal acclaim.

But they were certainly further removed from the case than the NFL.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

The NFL is right in the middle of this one. My hope is that chief medical officer Allen Sills is involved and it's as much about exploring how a virus might get its way in spite of protocols as it is about defending those protocols no matter what.

Lay down the hammer now and sure, the rest of the league will take note. What happens then if – or when – someone else has an outbreak?

We’d be getting a fairer assessment of what the Titans did, and just how much they would have been protected from what’s happened by the league’s protocols if the NFL found the right outsider to investigate it all instead of doing it themselves with the NFLPA.

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