NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the Tennessee Titans and the rest of the NFL begin reporting to Training Camp, they deserve patience and mercy while they figure out how to operate amidst COVID-19 restrictions.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a sizeable measure of uncertainty in all facets of life, something that the Titans won’t be immune from as they attempt to navigate Training Camp.
As such, it will take the team some time to figure out how to smoothly operate, and everyone—fans, reporters, analysts and everyone else—will need to cut them some slack as they do so.
Vrabel: “We have to follow the plan and, if we find it’s not working, we’ll change the plan.” pic.twitter.com/19MxUzcw4U
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) July 28, 2020
“WE HAVE TO FOLLOW THE PLAN”
Like every major business organization during the coronavirus, the Titans have worked hard to craft a plan geared toward a balance of safety and productivity. The reality of the situation, though, is that new information or failures within that plan may force it to change.
“Until we see how our protocols and our plan that the NFL and the players association worked so hard to put into place, until we see how those will function, and work, we can’t make any changes. We have to follow the plan,” head coach Mike Vrabel said.
“And then when things, when we’re not happy with how things are going, then we have to quickly change the plan.”
The Titans’ plan, as things currently stand, puts several limits on the team’s capabilities during Training Camp.
Full-team meetings will be held inside the Titans’ practice bubble with physical distancing requirements in place, the physicality of practices will seemingly be severely limited, position groups could end up having to be separated, daily COVID-19 testing will occur for everyone in the building and 4-foot-long dividers now protrude from each player’s locker.
“Meeting-wise, we’re so spaced out that it can feel like you’re not all in the same room together, even more than a Zoom, even though you are sitting in the same room,” said QB Ryan Tannehill.
Additionally, the number of practices the Titans will have during Training Camp will be lower than usual.
With the first few weeks of camp serving to allow for COVID-19 testing and player conditioning, the team won’t begin practicing until mid-August, and they’re currently slated for only 11 practices, according to a tentative schedule provided to media members.
In 2019, for comparison, the Titans held 15 practices during Training Camp in addition to two preseason games.
THIS CAN’T BE EASY
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) July 28, 2020
As a result of all of these restrictions in addition to the fear of a potential COVID-19 outbreak, which MLB’s Miami Marlins proved can happen at any time, this is certainly a stressful time for the entire Titans organization.
Vrabel, in particular, is under a lot of pressure as he now has to worry about keeping a roster of nearly 80 and a coaching staff of around 20 healthy in addition to winning football games.
The levels of stress and anxiety running through Saint Thomas Sports Park right now are undoubtedly at an all-time high, and understandably so.
The least that all of us—those who support the team and those who get paid to cover them—can do is show them some grace, because they’re going to need it.
“BE READY TO ADAPT AND ADJUST”
A lot could happen over the next month to bring about frustration.
Practices could ultimately yield little information about the team’s talent and strategy, player interviews could be logistically difficult at first, fans with season ticket packages may not find out their fate for some time and, heaven forbid, the Titans could have multiple players or staff members test positive for the coronavirus.
Whether the Titans’ current plan will need altering to accommodate a situation like one of those is a matter of if, not when.
So, when that happens, we all need to leave our pitchforks and torches in the closet and take a deep breath.
Tannehill put it best: “If something changes, just be ready to adapt and adjust.”
The Titans have seemingly adopted that mindset. Now, it’s our turn.
Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today