NASHVILLE — 2020 first round pick Isaiah Wilson was placed on Reserve/COVID-19 list by the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, according to coach Mike Vrabel.
The right tackle from Georgia becomes the first player for the franchise to receive that designation. Vrabel also confirmed that undrafted rookie free agent Anthony McKinney chose to take the NFL’s player opt-out for the 2020 season.
“Obviously, very sensitive to the feelings of those players around the league that have done that,” said Vrabel. “My focus is on our team like it always is. But, Anthony McKinney did inform Jon (Robinson) and myself, that he was going to opt-out, and we support all those players that have done that. As far as future players, I have not heard, I’ve not talked to any of them. But, again, we’ll wait until our players make the decision that’s in the best interest for them and their family before we proceed, and I think they have until Monday to do that.”
Tennessee also placed linebacker Jayon Brown and wide receiver Corey Davis on the Physically Unable to Perform list, designated outside linebacker Vic Beasley as Reserve – Did Not Report and waived outside linebacker Jordan Williams. The transactions bring the Titans roster to 77 players at the opening of training camp.
Landing on the league’s Reserve/COVID-19 list means that Wilson either tested positive for the virus or needed to been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person. Per the NFL’s rules, clubs may not disclose whether the player has tested positive or just come into contact with someone else carrying the coronavirus. The league also has not yet disclosed how much or how little time a player must spend on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before being cleared.
Therein lies the problem.
Wilson is expected to battle for a starting gig along Tennessee’s offensive line at right tackle with veteran Dennis Kelly. While Kelly is in good health and Wilson’s chances of being cleared in timely fashion remain solid, the scenario creates a hypothetical that is being considered around the league without much in the way of answers. Cases of the coronavirus or exposure to it are inevitable throughout the course of the 2020 season and, to this point, the illness is outpacing the science associated with containing it.
For the Titans, it creates a hypothetical that may not prove all that uncommon.
Kelly missed five of Tennessee’s first seven games in 2018 with an undiagnosed illness that sapped his strength and caused substantial weight loss. The swing tackle returned to the field that season and played throughout the 2019 run without issue. No starters for the Titans are expected to opt out at this time but no one would blame Kelly if he considered it. If one right tackle were to opt out and the other becomes unavailable due to COVID-19, a position with depth can evaporate quickly.
This specific scenario remains hypothetical. But, at this point, teams do not yet have great solutions for it. Players have until August 7 to decide whether or not to participate in the upcoming season.
How does not listening to the recommendation from your own experts show you care for player health and safety? Health of the players and their families should always be #1 priority. @NFL has to be better
— Dennis Kelly (@DennisKelly67) July 15, 2020
As for Wilson’s development, Vrabel expressed hope that any hindrances this offseason presented might be mitigated.
“I think the lines of scrimmage, I think there’s some carryover with that from the college level, especially playing in a big conference for a big school,” Vrabel said. “That carries over because some of the techniques may be somewhat different, but a lot of the blocking schemes are going to be similar. Now the names may be different or what we call it, but I would say that the playbook probably isn’t quite as large then let’s say a wide receiver.”
Tennessee’s issues are not uncommon around professional football at this time. Beasley’s no-show presents more pressing questions for a pass rush lacking burst than Wilson’s current predicament does. A player on a prove-it deal that does not show up for work and cannot be found for media comment on the matter projects as less than ideal.
The Titans will feel their way through this pandemic as best they can in the meantime. As so many other pro and college teams have learned, the virus presents more problems than answers.
Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports.