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Packers stress importance of taking precautions after Titans' COVID-19 outbreak

Olivia Reiner
Packers News

GREEN BAY - The NFL is facing its biggest challenge to date amid the COVID-19 pandemic: its first outbreak of positive tests.

The Tennessee Titans’ testing results returned three new player positives and five new personnel positives after their game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, the league said Tuesday. According to ESPN, the Titans will shut their facility down until Saturday, a day before their scheduled home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Vikings announced they have not received any positive tests since the game. However, in compliance with the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol, the team is suspending in-person activities indefinitely.

“Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA, including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement.

Upon returning to their facility Tuesday for the first time since their Sunday night victory over the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers cornerback Chandon Sullivan said the coaching staff’s message on COVID-19 has been consistent regardless of the news out of Tennessee.

“Just continue to be safe and continue to wash our hands,” Sullivan said. “Limit our access to outside people, going to restaurants and bars. Just continue to do the same things we’ve been doing because first of all, we want to keep all the players and coaches safe. We don’t want to put anybody at risk, so just continue to take precautions.”

According to the NFL Network, Sunday’s Titans-Steelers and Vikings-Houston Texans games are still on. The league is continuing to evaluate the outbreak and review contact tracing data derived from club members’ wearable trackers before making a decision on postponement. The whole situation, including the concept of missing games due to COVID-19, is “concerning” to Packers center Corey Linsley.

“For us, I mean, we get COVID, that's money out of our pocket,” Linsley said. “I get it, we're well off, but everybody in here, some rookies are trying to make as much money as they possibly can. Some are trying to get contracts, and all of us are an integral part of this business. So just from our perspective, it's like, we have to be extra careful. Because people are going to miss out on paychecks.”

Over the last several weeks, the 14-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 population in Green Bay has skyrocketed, according to the NFLPA. As of Sept. 27, Green Bay has the highest average out of all NFL cities of 66.6 daily new cases per 100,000 population. On Sept. 9, the 14-day average daily new cases per 100,000 was 22.2.

Not only are the Packers wary of the local positivity rate, they’re also paying attention to how COVID-19 could affect their upcoming Monday Night Football opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. He has been placed on COVID-19/reserve, making him the first player to move to the list in the regular season. According to the NFL Network, the Falcons were tested before their loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday and they didn’t receive any additional positives.

Both factors considered, head coach Matt LaFleur said he’s continuing to be “mindful” in the team’s approach to mitigating the risk of contracting the virus.

“Really, it comes down to putting the team first, and we’ve got to continue to do that,” LaFleur said. "Because all it takes is one guy. If one guy gets it, it can take down this whole operation. So our guys have done an outstanding job, and we’ve got to continue to be that way.”

The Packers placed five players on the COVID-19/reserve list at the start of training camp, including kicker Mason Crosby and tight end Jace Sternberger; however, all Packers players have since come off the list and none have been added. The NFL reported zero positive COVID-19 confirmed tests among players from Sept. 13-19. The league has not released recent figures.

As the Packers look to go 4-0 this week against the Falcons, inside linebacker Ty Summers is continuing to take the threat of the virus seriously.

“I think the biggest thing we’ve got to remember is this is real,” Summers said. “Regardless of what people’s opinions are on it, there’s people that are getting this, and at the end of the day, people who have it, they can’t play. It’s all about being smart.

“We enjoy playing football. We’d like to keep playing.”