Morning Joe: Week 1 of COVID-19

It took four weeks and 20 members of the Tennessee Titans, but the NFL is finally fallen victim to COVID-19. The realism of it all is coming in hot.
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PITTSBURGH -- The NFL knew this was going to happen. In a global pandemic, preventing everyone players, coach and staff members from contracting a potentially deadly virus was so impossible no one could've believed that's how the season would go.

Three weeks is honestly a long time. Yeah, there were positive tests here and there, but the league had their outbreak under control for the most part.

Then it happened.

This weekend, four teams will not play due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The Tennessee Titans became the first team to shut down their week due to multiple positive tests.

The NFL's plan was put into place immediately. The Steelers vs. Titans game was moved to Monday or Tuesday, and everyone expected the outbreak to be contained after examining the players who tested positive and their contact throughout the Week 3 weekend.

Once more tests came back positive, the league rescheduled the game to Week 7, bouncing the Steelers' matchup with the Baltimore Ravens to Week 8 and giving Tennessee and Pittsburgh the weekend off as a Bye Week.

Now, here's everything that's been wrong with the cancellation:

For starters, the Steelers had to practice two out of their four practice days because of the uncertainty of the decision. Not only is Week 4 Bye a terrible situation to be in after having only a month to prepare for a 16 game season and an additional playoff team, but it wasn't even a full week off.

The players tested their bodies for two days, watched film and scouted the Titans for four days, and found out the game was canceled and had the rest of the week off.

I'm not an NFL player, but it's hard to believe the Bye Week is spent scouting the team you won't be playing for three weeks and practicing for two days.

The Steelers will now play 13 games straight before the postseason, without a full Bye Week. Mike Tomlin can say they don't care all he wants, the players aren't satisfied with learning it's their rest week halfway through.

Next is the possibility that the Titans don't play in Week 5, either. Right now, they're at 20 members of the team with positive COVID-19 tests (10 players, 10 staff). Right now, their facilities are shut down until at least Wednesday as long as no more positive results come back before then.

But if we've learned anything, it's that this virus really does take a few days to appear in a test. The Titans have had new positive tests nearly every day since their original Tuesday outbreak of eight.

No amount of daily testing can detect a virus that takes 5-7 days to show itself. For the Titans being shut down, it's a better opportunity that they can't control it, but they aren't the only teams in trouble.

Cam Newton tested positive on Saturday, and now we wait and see if anyone else in New England contracted it. All the Patriots' tests came back negative on Saturday, but if we're seeing an increase throughout the week in Tennessee, what makes us believe it's not manifesting itself for an outbreak on Monday morning in New England?

And lastly, the realism of it all.

"Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)," according to the government of th District of Columbia.

And so far, the Titans have actually felt the effects of this disease. Vrabel confirmed early that some of his players were dealing with symptoms related to the flu and will need to be evaluated on the field once they are able to return to the team.

For anyone who's dealt with the flu, it's not a "get it Monday, feel great Tuesday" virus. Your body is fatigued, which is not ideal if they return days before a game and need to prepare themselves for full contact on a short schedule.

"Nobody is to blame. We're in a pandemic. No one is to blame. We are not interested in trying to blame anybody," Vrabel said last week. "We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make the players safe and that this doesn't happen again."

He's right. We can't stop this disease. The NFL can't stop this disease. And as much as they try, there is going to be outbreaks.

That's why there are extra practice squad players. It's why they are considering an additional week at the end of the season for games that were unable to be played. And it's why we're four weeks into the season with two rescheduled events.

We all want football. But COVID-19 isn't an NFL-thing. And at some point, we need to stop treating it like it is. 

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.