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After Positive COVID Tests, Sportsbooks Take Two NFL Games Off Board

After going mostly unscathed for the first three weeks of the football season, at least nine members of the Tennessee Titans — including three players — have tested positive for COVID-19. Those positive tests delivered a harsh reality check to the NFL on Tuesday.

Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sits empty because of COVID-19. (Image: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The Titans won at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, but now, both teams have shut team headquarters until the breadth of the outbreak can be determined.

Games Off Board

Because of the uncertainty, sportsbooks removed from their boards the Titans’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Vikings’ game at the Houston Texans.

It’s so early in the week. We don’t get a lot of bets early in the week, anyway, so we took it down, waiting for more information,” said Nick Bogdanovich, the director of trading at William Hill, to Casino.org on Tuesday.

“Is it (quarterback Ryan) Tannehill? Is it (running back Derrick) Henry? Is it three backup special-teams guys? Who knows what they’re going to do. Hopefully COVID won’t be a factor in the NFL,” Bogdanovich continued. “I don’t know what would ever happen if they had to cancel a game or two. Obviously, the schedule is the schedule. So, fingers crossed we don’t have a COVID problem in the NFL.” 

After some positive tests at the start of NFL training camps in August, the league had practically been free of COVID. In fact, as of Tuesday, only four players in the entire league were on COVID-19 reserve lists. One of those was cornerback A.J. Terrell, the Atlanta Falcons’ first-round pick, who tested positive the day before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. That game was played as scheduled and no other members of the Falcons have tested positive.

“After the baseball season and all this other stuff we’ve gone through, there’s nothing that’s going to surprise us anymore,” Ed Salmons, the vice president of risk management and oddsmaking at Westgate SuperBook, told Casino.org.

No Changes to Schedule

As the NFL works to determine whether COVID has spread to more players on the Titans, or if anyone on the Vikings was infected during Sunday’s game, their Week 4 games are set to be played as scheduled. That could change, obviously, depending on the number of impacted players.

As noted by ESPN.com, there is a relatively easy way to reschedule the Titans-Steelers game. The league could play that game in Week 7 by moving the Steelers’ game that week against the Baltimore Ravens to Week 8 when those teams have byes. There is no easy path to make up the Vikings-Texans game, though both teams are 0-3 and maybe it wouldn’t be necessary. Another option would be to move those games to Monday, which at least would allow an additional day of testing and contact tracing.

It’s going to happen and you’re going to have to cancel games,” Salmons said. “It’s happened in college. Baseball is the one sport that can stick to their deadlines because they changed the rules to play seven-inning doubleheaders and starting extra innings with a guy on second. They totally blew up their sport just to get the season in.

“The NFL, there’s no way they can do Mickey Mouse stuff like that to get these games in. It just seems to me this isn’t going to be the last time something like this happens,” he continued.

The Green Bay Packers are scheduled to host the Falcons on Monday. On a per-capita basis, the Green Bay area is dealing with the largest COVID outbreak among the NFL’s 30 cities and is one of the hardest-hit in the nation overall. The positive tests have also impacted sports betting equities.

Players, coaches, and some team staff members are tested daily for the coronavirus, except on game days. Why not game days? That’s because the rapid tests required for Sundays are significantly less accurate. During the week, those daily tests are outsourced to labs, and the turnaround time is about 24 hours.

​“On Tuesday morning, the Titans’ COVID testing results returned three new player positives and five new personnel positives,” the league said in a statement. “The Titans will suspend in-person club activities starting today. Likewise, the Vikings will also suspend in-person club activities.”

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