It was mid-October when the Tennessee Titans played a comatose game in Denver and suffered their ugliest loss of the 2019 season, a 16-0 shutout.
The game marked a turning point because it would be the last time Marcus Mariota would start at quarterback for the Titans. Ryan Tannehill was inserted into the lineup and the Titans marched all the way to the AFC Championship.
I provide that backdrop because the Titans are scheduled to return to Denver for their season-opener on Sept. 14. The NFL released its 2020 schedule last week in the fairy tale bubble of pretending the season will start on time.
However, in scenarios that have not been tightly guarded secrets, the NFL is also developing contingency plans if the COVID-19 pandemic does not subside.
We’ve been fortunate thus far that the virus has not taken a firm grip here in Warren County. But Nashville, with 3,465 confirmed cases and 32 deaths, has not been so lucky. Huge NFL markets like New York and California have been overwhelmed by coronavirus.
Among the NFL’s auxiliary schedules is one which reportedly takes the entire first month of the season and moves it to the end of the season. Under this scenario, the Titans would open their season in Nashville on Oct. 11 against the Buffalo Bills.
According to a report by Peter King of NBC Sports, delaying the season a month would allow teams in states with bans on mass gatherings through September to possibly start their season with fans in attendance.
It’s easy to see how the NFL would take a punch to the throat if any games are forced to be played in empty stadiums. Sure, there’s the lucrative TV contract to provide a buffer, but those $8 Cokes, $75 seats, and $30 parking passes tend to add up to real money.
Under the alternate scenario of tacking on the first month of the season to the end, Week 17 would take place Jan. 31 and the Super Bowl would be played Feb. 28.
For me, an Oct. 11 opening date seems much more likely than Sept. 14. As much as we all want to tap our heels together and return to a world before coronavirus, I’m not so confident that’s going to happen.
As a true NFL fanatic, I want pro football to return as much as anybody. I think it will happen this year in some capacity, at some point, even if it means playing in empty stadiums as a last resort.