Colts’ notebook: Titans’ COVID-19 issues demand extra attention

Indianapolis Colts

Head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts looks on in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears of the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field on October 04, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are paying close attention to what’s going on with one of their AFC South rivals.

That would be the Tennessee Titans, who are in the midst of a COVID-19 mess that already has forced one game to be rescheduled and threatens Sunday’s home game with the Buffalo Bills.

While the Colts have strictly followed protocols put in place by the NFL, the recent outbreak in Nashville, Tenn. resulted in more attention this week. General manager Chris Ballard addressed the team Tuesday after he and coach Frank Reich participated in a conference call with league officials.

“The good thing is we’ve got mature guys,’’ Reich said Wednesday on a Zoom conference call. “At our team meeting (Tuesday), Chris spoke to the team, gave them a good update from the league meetings that both he and I were on. I said a few words yesterday (but) I let Chris say most of the words yesterday.

“Today, I just kind of gave a reminder.’’

Reich meets every Wednesday morning with the players’ leadership council.

“We talked about (COVID-19) again this morning,’’ he said. “Mentioned it briefly at the team meeting today.

“Our guys are pretty locked in. They’re responsible. They know this is serious stuff, and we want to do everything we can to stay healthy and strong and keep everybody else healthy and strong and continue to play football.

“We’re going to do our part.’’

The Colts have placed only two players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: wideout Malik Henry and cornerback Jackson Porter. Each occurred July 27.

After a quiet three weeks to open the season, the NFL saw the COVID-19 issue strike the Titans. On Sept. 24, defensive back Greg Mabin tested positive. Two days later, outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen tested positive.

The Titans went ahead with their Sept. 27 road trip to Minnesota, but then the positive tests started piling up. Eight positive tests were reported Sept. 29 – three players and five staff members – and another the next day.

That day, all in-person activities at the Titans’ facility were suspended, and the Oct. 4 game at Pittsburgh subsequently was rescheduled for Oct. 25.

Overall, the Titans have had 20 positive tests with players and staff members since Sept. 24.

With their facility still closed, it’s conceivable Sunday’s home game with Buffalo will be postponed, or worse.

The Titans violated NFL protocols when players gathered for a workout at a Nashville school. In a memo distributed Monday, the league stressed teams that violated COVID-19 protocol that resulted in an adjustment to the schedule were subject to discipline that included fines, loss of draft picks and possible forfeiture of a game.

The Titans have opened the season 3-0.

Also, the New England Patriots were forced to play at Kansas City Monday without quarterback Cam Newton, who had a positive test. That game was pushed back from Sunday. Patriots’ cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, tested positive Wednesday. Tennessee also placed wideout Corey Davis on the reserve/COVID list.

Three starters not practicing

The Colts’ injury situation bears monitoring as the week unfolds in preparation for Sunday’s road test at Cleveland.

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (rib), All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) and starting linebacker Bobby Okereke (thumb) did not practice Wednesday. Backup linebacker E.J. Speed (elbow) was limited, as was cornerback T.J. Carrie (hamstring).

To prepare for being short of linebackers Sunday, the team signed rookie linebacker Jonas Griffith to the practice squad. He’s a product of Indiana State where he appeared in 44 games and registered 382 tackles and 14 sacks.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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