NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans’ coronavirus outbreak in late September and early October forced the move of their Week 4 game to Week 7 and delayed their Week 5 game from Sunday to Tuesday.

While 22 positive tests for players and staff wreaked such havoc on their schedule and limited them to two practices and a walkthrough in 16 days between their win in Minnesota on Sept. 27 and their defeat of the Bills on Oct. 13, it made for a confusing and upsetting time.

The league investigated how the Titans handled protocol and some violations and potential violations were reported. Then some national media went crazy with it.Screen Shot 2020 12 01 at 3.49.16 PM

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote on Oct. 7, “There’s buzz in league circles of possible ‘historic’ punishment for the Titans given the various violations.”

Mike Freeman, who since joined USA Today, gave the floor to his sources and tweeted this:

And USA Today’s Doug Farrar went so far as to write an Oct. 7 column titled, “Why the NFL needs to immediately end the Titans’ 2020 season.”

Farrar didn’t have all the info by any means, none of us ever did. But he said, "the Titans refused to follow protocol in every possible capacity." 

Yes, among the items in the “case” he built was my report of the workout some Titans held at MBA on Sept. 30 despite what a league source told me was a directive the NFL issued a day earlier for no get-togethers away from the facility.

I thought the workout, or at least communications issues related to it, would be a factor in where the league wound up in terms of a penalty.

I also thought when the NFL ultimately fined the Titans $350,000 it should have issued a press release and told us what exactly they did judge to be at issue.

Tennessee was first with a virus spread. It was unfortunate for sure and it also exposed some holes in protocols not built to handle a positive Saturday test result and team travel hours later. That prompted revised regulations that helped every other team control the potential for spread and helped the league keep getting games played.

But as could have been predicted with an unpredictable virus, the Titans weren’t the only team that suffered at the hands of a microscopic, highly contagious bug.

Since their outbreak, we’ve seen protocol issues that also resulted in penalties for the Raiders ($500,000 and a sixth-rounder plus $100,000 for Jon Gruden), Saints ($500,000 and a seventh-rounder), Patriots ($350,000) and Steelers ($250,000 and $100,000 for Mike Tomlin).

And now the Ravens have had at least 13 player positive tests and over 32 members of the organization either test positive or be designated as close contacts. Baltimore's Thanksgiving night game at Pittsburgh has been moved back multiple times and is now slated to be played Wednesday afternoon.

The Ravens proactively disciplined a strength and conditioning coach. NFL Network said it was “for not reporting symptoms and not consistently wearing a mask or tracking device.”

For sportswriters, the Titans' outbreak was a huge story inside the COVID-19 pandemic story and in the examples above there was a lot of leeway given to sources or taken with opinions. And when it turns out the initial development wasn't as big as it seemed in the context of later developments, the industry has a tendency not to circle back. We love to just forge ahead.

I’m sure I am guilty of doing that at times, but I do try to be conscious of it. (I’m working on a circle-back piece on something for later this week.)

I asked Freeman what his sources think about what’s going on with the Ravens right now as compared to what they thought about what when on with the Titans when they called for such harsh penalties. He said he didn’t know, as he hadn’t asked them, and he was unwilling to share his personal opinions either.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedAs for Farrar, he didn’t reply to a text or a DM. Like Freeman, he’s been a good guy in my previous dealings with him and I generally appreciate his work. Perhaps on an NFL Tuesday, a day off, Farrar was away from his computer.

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston did call out the Ravens organization and say that “somebody has to pay for bad decisions that were made.”

But because a second outbreak is hardly as compelling as the first and because the league guidelines have evolved, there has been no one from the national sportswriter ranks asking insiders for punishment suggestions or drawing up super-harsh penalties for the Ravens.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the place to go now.

The place to go now would be to construct a tweet that says something like…

Hey, those sources were a little over-reactionary regarding the Titans considering what’s happened since their deal. I’m not going to go back to them and ask what they want to see happen to the Ravens, but I’m sure it’d be a revised opinion now. Mine certainly is.

And if I’d said myself in October to shut the Titans down I sure as hell couldn’t sit back watching things unfold with the Ravens now and say nothing.

It makes sense to revise the opinion.

Or go ahead and double down if you’re so compelled.

But don’t ignore it. Don't hide.

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