Vikings plan to return to facility Thursday

©Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

The Vikings training facility remained closed Wednesday after a COVID outbreak among the Tennessee Titans, who played them on Sunday. - Star Tribune/Star Tribune/Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings plan to be back at practice on Thursday and play in Houston on Sunday, days after eight positive COVID-19 cases from their previous opponent forced them to close their team headquarters for two days.

General manager Rick Spielman said Wednesday the Vikings are “optimistic we’ll be back in the building” on Thursday for their first on-field practice of the week, after positive test results for three Tennessee Titans players and five staff members sent the Vikings scurrying to close their facility down Tuesday morning. Coaches on Tuesday worked from home on a game plan for the Vikings’ next opponent, the Houston Texans, and conducted virtual meetings with players on Wednesday.

Team infection control officer Eric Sugarman said the Vikings will have “enhanced protocols” in place on Thursday, adding no one will be admitted inside the team headquarters without a negative PCR test in the last 24 hours and negative point-of-care test when they arrive. Players, coaches and team personnel will continue to wear contact tracing devices that help NFL teams quickly determine who might have been exposed to a person who tests positive.

The Vikings had no positive COVID-19 tests from Tuesday, though it could be several days before the team can rule out the possibility anyone contracted coronavirus from the Titans game on Sunday.

A fourth Titans player reportedly had tested positive as of Wednesday morning, and the NFL announced it would move Tennessee’s game with the Steelers from Sunday to Monday or Tuesday. It is the first COVID-19 postponement of the NFL season.

Because the virus can take several days to show up on a test after initial exposure, the Vikings can’t be sure yet they won’t have any positive cases as a result of Sunday’s game.

“The CDC website will tell you that symptoms appear anywhere from Day two to Day 14 as well (through) a positive test,” Sugarman said. “It seems like the sweet spot for a positive is between days three and five. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday are critical days for us. And we’ll see what happens, and we’ll also have an eye on the Titans as well.”

Sugarman said sports are considered a low-risk activity because of their lack of sustained proximity to others, though football, which puts players in close contact for a few seconds at a time throughout a game, carries more risk than other sports.

Two of the players on the Titans’ COVID-19 reserve list — defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley — played on Sunday. Jones was on the field for 69% of the Titans’ defensive snaps, and Brinkley played 10 special-teams snaps.

Tennessee had one coach receive a positive result on Saturday morning from a test the previous day and did not travel with the team to the Twin Cities. The positive results on Tuesday came from tests taken on Monday. The NFL does not test players and personnel on game days.

Sugarman said the Vikings had several “moderate-risk contacts” during the Titans game, but those were primarily among coaches and team personnel talking with their counterparts from Tennessee before or after the game.

If the team has one or two positive tests this week, it would likely proceed as normal by isolating those individuals with a care package, Sugarman said, adding there is no set number of positive tests to determine whether the team headquarters would need to remain closed.

Nor is there a threshold for moving the Vikings’ game against the Texans to a later date, Spielman said. As of now, he said, the Vikings are planning to practice this week and head to Houston on Saturday as they normally would.

The team could practice Thursday and Friday, and stage a shortened version of its normal Friday practice on Saturday before departing, he said.

“I’ve spoken to (NFL executive vice president of football operations) Troy Vincent, I’ve spoken to some of the people at the league,” Spielman said. “And I think they have a history because of some of the team dealing with natural disasters, where they miss a day or two because of a hurricane or because of the wildfires or other natural disasters. Our main focus is getting this team ready to play. … We’re not looking at any excuses to make. This is what we’re dealing with and Coach Zim made that a point of emphasis in the team meeting that we’ll be ready and prepared to play on Sunday.”

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©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)