EAGAN, Minn. — Once again the Vikings are at the epicenter of the league’s COVID protocols. Only this time they aren’t the team potentially infected.
After shutting down TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Sept. 29 in response to multiple members of the Tennessee Titans testing positive for COVID, the Vikings are navigating a sea of unknowns this week after the Atlanta Falcons — Minnesota’s scheduled opponent on Sunday, Oct. 18 — returned positive tests.
Earlier this week, Falcons rookie defensive tackle Marlon Davidson tested positive for COVID, and the Falcons shut down their team facility on Thursday morning after an assistant coach reportedly tested positive. As of Thursday night the game between the Vikings and Falcons was still scheduled to be played at U.S. Bank Stadium.
For the Vikings, this is different than when they were the team that had to shut down their team facility prior to their Oct. 4 game against the Houston Texans. That’s something receiver Adam Thielen made very clear when asked about how the team is handling the current situation.
“Nothing has changed for us as of now,” Thielen said. “We had a good practice (on Thursday) and we are going to continue to prepare like we are playing the game at the normal time on a normal day.”
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said the decisions about closing team facilities and postponing games are based on how the league’s medical experts gauge the risk of further transmission. This is done on a case-by-case basis.
Just last week the NFL made calls both ways regarding teams testing positive for COVID in the days leading up to their respective games. While the game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos was postponed, the game between the Titans and the Buffalo Bills went on as scheduled.
As long as the Falcons don’t return positive tests Friday, they are expected to reopen their team facility, according to multiple reports.
“We feel for those guys because we were in that situation,” Vikings special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf said. “We have been in that situation, and we are just hoping for the best for them to make sure they are healthy before they play us and that they take the right precautions and the right steps in order to ensure their safety.
“I think that’s the most important is the safety and the well-being of their players and their staff and of course our players and our staff. We understand what they’re going through, and hopefully we will get a chance to play them if everything goes well on their end.’’
Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said the Vikings are operating under the impression that they will be playing the Falcons this weekend.
“We all understand that our routines and schedules could be interrupted throughout the course of this season,” Kubiak said. “It’s just part of life. You kind of deal with it.”
That said, Kubiak said he instantly thought about the people he knows within the Falcons organization.
“We hear something and the first thing we think about is, ‘Everybody OK?’” Kubiak said. “It’s just kind of part of the day nowadays. You just pray that everybody stays healthy and we can keep plugging along right here.”
Just keep plugging along. That’s exactly what the Vikings plan to do for the foreseeable future.
“We are trying to not even think about it,” Thielen said. “Not trying to worry about those things because that’s so far out of our control. We are trying to pretend like nothing is going on, and obviously listen to the protocols and follow them, and try to do the best we can as far as that goes. Other than that we are business as usual and we are preparing and we are getting excited to play.”