The Tennessee Titans were informed on Sept. 29 that in-person gatherings had been banned because of the organization's ongoing coronavirus outbreak, a league source told ESPN's Dan Graziano, meaning that the players' informal workouts the following day were unauthorized and a violation of the NFL's virus-related protocols.
A group of Titans players held a workout at a Nashville school on Sept. 30, one day after the organization closed its facility. The Titans have had 23 positive tests for COVID-19 since Sept. 24, with another player testing positive for the virus Thursday, according to ESPN and reports.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the NFL is investigating whether the Titans violated COVID-19 protocols. The Titans and Minnesota Vikings, who played Tennessee in Week 3 and also closed their facility last week, were informed Sept. 29 that there could be no in-person activities anywhere, team facility or otherwise, the source told Graziano.
Multiple Titans players, however, have told ESPN that they were unaware that workouts had been banned on Sept. 29.
The NFL also issued a memo to all clubs on Oct. 1 to reinforce protocols already in place. Whether the Titans effectively communicated the Sept. 29 information to their players is "all part of the investigation," the league source told Graziano.
The players' workout last week took place at Montgomery Bell Academy, a school official told Davenport. Some players had worked out at the school in the past and have a relationship with Montgomery Bell Academy coach Marty Euverard.
The school official told ESPN that they weren't aware of any restrictions by the NFL in place to prevent players from gathering.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Oct. 1 that players were told not to hold any group workouts.
"We've asked our players in light of the recent tests to not gather," Vrabel said. "Whether that's a league protocol or us asking them so that we can just avoid close contacts and that we can try to work through this and get back into the building to prepare for Buffalo as quickly as possible."
Tennessee's Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was rescheduled for Oct. 25 because of the Titans' positive coronavirus tests. The Titans are scheduled to host the Bills on Sunday, but the status of that game now is in jeopardy after Thursday's latest positive test.
Players from both the Titans and Bills have been informed that the NFL is discussing multiple alternative scenarios for the game, including postponing it until Monday or Tuesday, sources told ESPN's Dianna Russini.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Sept. 30 that players "can't sit around on the couch for a week and be on a Zoom meeting and expect to go be at a physical peak on a Sunday, or whenever the game is going to be."
"It's going to look a little bit different for everybody, what they're able to do, where they're able to work out, in a garage, in a gym somewhere, I'm not even sure," Tannehill said at the time.
The NFL and NFL Players Association sent officials to Nashville on Friday to look into possible violations of procedures and protocols. Although the Titans maintain that they have followed all league memos and directives verbatim, the team is now facing possible penalties from the NFL.
A league memo distributed Monday said teams found in violation of protocol resulting in an outbreak that requires an adjustment to the schedule are subject to financial and competitive discipline that can include the loss of draft picks and forfeiture of a game.
Also on Thursday, practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson, who is already on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list, has been suspended without pay for six games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.