Positive Virus Tests a Wake-up Call for NFL

Ed Kracz

PHILADELPHIA – The NFL has hit its first bump in the COVID-19 road.

After three weeks of smooth sailing, the Tennessee Titans became the first team to have a game postponed due to an outbreak among players – at last check, four had tested positive for the virus – and staff.

That means the Titans game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, scheduled for Sunday, has been postponed to a later, still to be determined date.

And, of course, that impacts the Eagles since the Steelers are on the schedule when the team returns from Sunday night’s game at San Francisco.

That means the Steelers will have an extra day week to prepare for Philadelphia. As if a 3-0 team needs any extra time to prep for an 0-2-1 team that is staring in the face of 0-3-1.

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz called the positive tests a wake-up call.

“It is a great reminder for the other 31 teams that we have to be diligent,” he said on Thursday. “The pandemic is not over by any means, even though we’re playing, doing what we love, doing what we’ve done in the past.

“We’re dealing with something we’ve never dealt with before, so guys have to be vigilant when they go home, when they leave the building, when they’re in the building, wearing masks, being socially distant in the building, taking care of one another when they’re outside the building.”

The NFL sent a strongly worded memo to all 32 team executives, GMs, and head coaches on Wednesday that urged compliance with game-day protocols such as wearing masks and social distancing when possible. The memo said, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “We will address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may include...suspensions and/or forfeiture of draft picks.”

So, the virus strikes again, and maybe the question isn’t, 'What happened,?' as much as it should be, 'How did it take so long?'

“I was surprised,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. “We’ve been very clean across the league. Everybody has been doing their part. It’s unfortunate … It just shows you how serious this virus is, and you have to be responsible.

“That is stressed each and every week from our head coach and our organization how once we leave these walls, we have a responsibility that we have to fulfill, and we have to sacrifice a little bit in order to make it through the season.”

Now, the Eagles will board a plane for the first time this season, flying to California.

“We're basically bottling up our bubble and putting it on an airplane and taking it across the country,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “Obviously, the Rams have done it and teams have done it already this season and they have done it successfully. It's just about ownership. It's about each man or woman that travels with us to do the right thing.”

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