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Vrabel 'Hopeful' Players Make Good Choices When On Their Own

Titans coach says you 'try to influence them the best that you can.'

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel opened his Tuesday press conference with his appreciation for the hard work general manager Jon Robinson and his staff put in to get the facility ready for training camp.

A lot about it will not appear normal.

In a close-contact sport on and off the field, social distancing is now a focal point. The cafeteria and other spaces, including the weight room, have been reconfigured. Dividers in between each locker have been installed to ensure social distancing in the locker room. Spaces have been created for meetings and other large-group gatherings.

It’s clear that the Titans have done everything possible to get Saint Thomas Sports Park into COVID-19-acceptable shape. Another obstacle stands in the way now, though: it will only be the Titans’ safe haven for a few hours each day.

While it’s a scenario nobody wants to ponder, Vrabel understands that when players leave practice and workouts and enter the outside world again, they could be exposed to the virus that continues its spread throughout the United States.

“You have to try to influence them the best that you can,” Vrabel said. “And especially, you’re not going to be able to control a professional football player outside the building. So, I know the type of people that (Robinson) and I and [controlling owner] Miss Amy [Adams Strunk] have tried to bring onto this football team.”

Vrabel isn’t the only one who has stressed the importance of off-field actions.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told AllTitans in May that players' actions off the field will be most important.

All it takes is one person -- symptomatic or not -- to start a COVID-19 outbreak. Major League Baseball was the latest example of how easily the virus can be spread. After one member of the Miami Marlins tested positive for the virus, 17 other players contracted it too. That situation is the exact one the NFL would like to avoid.

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“It would have to be an awful lot of instruction in terms of how the players ought to behave off of the field,” Schaffner said. “That’s where the risk is. It’s not so much on the field, it’s off of the field. Do they stay away from people? Are they sheltering in place? Do they wear masks when they’re out and about? Are they practicing good hand hygiene?”

Titans players have reported to camp over the last several days. Rookies and quarterbacks reported last Thursday; the rest of the team reported Tuesday.

Bad news has been limited for the Titans thus far. First-round pick Isaiah Wilson is the only player on the team’s COVID-19 Reserve List, and Anthony McKinney, an undrafted offensive lineman out of TCU, is the only player on the team to voluntarily opt out of the season. In non-COVID news, Vic Beasley, the Titans’ highest profile free agent addition of the offseason, has not yet arrived shown up for camp.

The first several days will include more COVID-19 screening and testing than football activity. Players will not be allowed to enter the facility until they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 twice in 72 hours. The Titans first full-team activity will be held Sunday.

There will be meetings, workouts, practices and everyday routines as the regular season approaches. Vrabel said the Titans will have sore feet, bad backs, blisters, tight groins and other football-related ailments.

Outside of that bubble, however, lies a greater risk, especially for the Titans and other teams playing in red-zone states. Tennessee surpassed 100,000 cases and 1,000 deaths Wednesday.

It will take a true team effort from the Titans to keep the virus away, even when they aren’t at Saint Thomas Sports Park.

“We're going to navigate through a pandemic, the likes of which we've never seen or experienced,” Vrabel said. “I know that it's important to them, their health and safety, and their family's health and safety is important to them.

“So, again, always hopeful that we're making the right decisions away from here and doing everything that can maintain the best health that we can.”