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Ben Roethlisberger has been staying home after work and even home-schooling his children to keep him and his family safe during a pandemic. As for Ryan Tannehill? He was reportedly part of an unsanctioned team workout. Which shows more leadership? I think you know.
As the 2020 NFL regular season began to ramp up amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, a constant refrain I had when asked which teams I thought would excel under such unprecedented conditions was that the squads that didn’t blink, if you will, would likely stay together during everything and have successful seasons.
Who would be the first team to blink? Turned out, it was the 3-0 Tennessee Titans, 2019’s AFC runners-up and a Week 4 opponent the Steelers, also 3-0, were looking at as a true test of where they were as contenders after missing the playoffs the previous two years.
Unfortunately, that Week 4 match-up never took place, thanks to several Titans players and staff members testing positive for COVID-19.
Blinking in the face of an unpredictable virus is one thing. After all, we may never know who was initially responsible for contracting and then spreading the disease throughout the Titans’ organization. But even when the Week 4 match-up with Pittsburgh was still in play, Tennessee’s players were instructed to stay away from the team facility until at least the Saturday before the originally scheduled kickoff. Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel said he specifically told his guys to not gather until given the all-clear to come back to work.
Did the Titans’ choose not to blink during this period of adversity? No. Instead, they decided to blink so much, I’m wondering if they were trying to send a message in Morse code, and if that message was: “We’re selfish idiots,” it was been pretty darn accurate.
As you know, the Week 4 match-up between the Steelers and Titans was moved to October 25, and both teams had to take their byes much sooner than expected. Meanwhile, after a brief lapse, more Titans players tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, putting their Week 5 game against the Bills in jeopardy. Also on Wednesday, it was reported by Tennessee beat writer Paul Kuharsky that several Titans’ players had gathered at a local school to work out a week earlier during the period in-which they were supposed to be staying away from their team facility and each other.
There was some speculation as to whether this was true, but several sources have confirmed Kuharsky’s story. Besides all that, Titans guard Rodger Saffold all but admitted to it after the story broke, when he Tweeted:
“Guys just don’t work out for fun this is for their lively hood, their family, their opportunity. Say what you want but I’m standing up for my team always.”
That may have seemed like great leadership during a strike or lockout but during a pandemic? Not so much. Speaking of leadership, or lack thereof, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was also said to be at this unsanctioned workout. Remember the movie Necessary Roughness, when coach Ed “Straight Arrow” Gennero busted up a party his college team was attending with boosters, and he said to his very veteran quarterback, 34-year old Paul Blake, “I expected more from you”?
Tannehill was Blake in this situation. In other words, he should have been setting a much better example for his teammates.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gets it. He’s been staying home after work and is even home-schooling his children to keep himself and his family as safe as possible.
A week ago, I kind of laughed at the moaning and groaning from the Steelers and their fans, who were saying the team was getting screwed and having its season compromised through no fault of its own. I thought the idea of a forfeit for the Titans was a joke and that it would damage the integrity of the NFL. But after learning about the Titans and their blatant disregard for the rules, I may be starting to see things a bit differently.
I still don’t think the Steelers were screwed all that badly, and I still don’t think a forfeit for Tennessee is the answer.
But I know which team has the better leadership.
That’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve had every chance to blink through this whole thing, and they have yet to do so. Those are the kinds of teams that win championships.