If your temptation after an 0-3 start for the Vikings was to ask, “What else could go wrong?” then Tuesday provided a bleak answer.
The Vikings now find themselves right in the middle of the NFL’s first COVID situation, after they were forced to shut down their facility Tuesday following news that eight members of the Titans — three players, five staff members — were reportedly confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.
Those two teams played at U.S. Bank Stadium less than 48 hours before that announcement, a 31-30 loss for the Vikings.
The Titans reportedly have been shut down until Saturday, which would make it VERY difficult to conceive of them playing their scheduled game Sunday against the Steelers.
The impact on the Vikings — and the overall NFL schedule — remains to be seen, though the Vikings released a statement Tuesday saying they haven’t had any positive tests since Sunday’s game.
Silver linings for eternal optimists: Maybe the Vikings will still be able to play. Or: You can’t lose if you can’t play.
In the bigger picture, though, this underscores the challenge of playing an NFL season in a pandemic without a bubble. Major League Baseball had major outbreaks involving the Marlins and Cardinals but managed to (mostly) make it through a 60-game regular season.
Baseball’s challenge was the sheer volume of games needed to make up with teams playing almost every day. But that was mitigated somewhat by the ability to play doubleheaders — the Cardinals played 11 of them in the final 44 days of the season — that were shortened to seven innings each.
The NFL can’t exactly have teams play twice on the same day, with games shortened to three quarters. (Right?)
Those who pay closer attention than me are already concocting ways things could be reconfigured if the Titans vs. Steelers game is postponed. It involves several shifting byes and moving pieces, but it appears to work.
If the Vikings develop positive tests and have to postpone their game Sunday at Houston? Things get trickier. The Vikings have a Week 7 bye week. The Texans play that week but then have a bye the following week.
Maybe there’s a complete schedule rearrangement? Maybe they squeeze a game in on a Thursday? Maybe they say two 0-3 teams don’t make up the game unless it means something at the end of the year?
All of these are hypotheticals at this point. I’m sure we’ll gain some clarity as the week goes on — and perhaps be able to answer the question of whether the Titans should have played Sunday in the first place after a defensive coach was placed in COVID protocol.
For now, though, this sure feels like one of those situations the NFL hoped would never happen and won’t be able to make a perfect plan to mitigate.
For the Vikings? It’s hard not to think about past seasons like 2010 where things have gone from bad to worse and never stopped.