Imagine the chaos that would erupted if this scenario had been mapped out back in March. It would have sounded like something off a 'Black Mirror,' script. A potentially deadly virus hitting the opponents' facility barely 48 hours before kickoff?
But the new normal isn't all that new. When the Bengals began Friday with word first thing in the morning that the Colts had shut down their facility because of multiple positive tests for Covid, head coach Zac Taylor simply went ahead until he heard something definitive with a typical Friday geared around a Sunday game.
Meetings. Followed by a brief late morning practice that ended their shortest day of the work week.
So when that definitive word came 90 minutes after the 7:30 a.m. meeting, Taylor played it just right because the Bengals are still getting on the bus Saturday to go to Indianapolis for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Fox 19) against the Colts after new tests yielded negative results.
"We made it very clear at the first meeting … we planned on this ball game, we planned on playing it and there's no discussion about it," said Taylor after Friday's practice. "No distraction. No conversation."
It's the closest the Bengals have come to the pitfalls of the pandemic and serves as even more evidence why Taylor and/or head trainer Paul Sparling are offering the team daily safety reminders.
"I think in general with what's happened around the league it's just good for us every single day to be on top of these details," Taylor said. "Paul Sparling does a good job talking to the team about the protocols. Guys have done a really good job staying on top of each other. The social distancing, the mask wearing. I think our team is doing a really good job staying focused on that and also getting the work done that we need to get ready for our opponents."
Taylor is so used to juggling since the pandemic hit, it's no longer considered juggling.
"We just focus on things that directly affect our day. And I wouldn't say there's much that directly affects us," Taylor said. "We make sure we communicate that at the right time with the player. It was probably more distracting in July and August when you're first going through it. Now you just get information that affects you, you make the adjustment and you keep moving forward."
INJURY UPDATE: Everyone went full in Friday's practice but wide receiver Auden Tate (shoulder-limited) with Taylor saying he expects slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander (hamstring) to play for the first time this month. He called Tate doubtful. Running back Joe Mixon returned to practice Friday after tending to a personal matter.
GREEN-ER PASTURES: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said so many important things in Thursday's impressive lesson-for-the-kids Zoomer when he took responsibility for his actions in last Sunday's game. And he was exactly right about the opener, that 16-13 loss that is probably going to be the last non-Justin Herbert victory for the Chargers during the next dozen years.
If an offensive pass interference hadn't been called, wiping out his winning touchdown catch with seven seconds left … If he had connected with quarterback Joe Burrow on a wide-open 30-yard touchdown pass …
"If I didn't get the push-off call, if we didn't (miss) that wide-open one down the seam," Green said, "Things would have been a lot different right now."
You don't see a seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver call himself out every day. That's why Taylor wants him here.
"That's who he is," Taylor said. "That's why we don't let all those other things become distractions. Because we know what we've got with these players. They've bought in and helped build this culture that we're building. Not surprised in the slightest.
"I think that's an example of how our whole unit felt. That's every player. The spotlight just happened to be on him in that regard. Everybody is disappointed when we don't score enough, we have turnovers, all the things that happened. We have real accountable players like A.J., but I think everybody you would have interviewed would have been accountable for that loss."
Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan sees a break-out game coming soon from Green after the worst five-game stretch of his career as he gets more reps with Burrow. Callahan sees Green like a hitter in a slump. Once he gets that long catch …
"All I know is that A.J. has been great in practice. Him and Joe have put a ton of work into this," Callahan said. "I do think its coming. It's coming along where you'll see it pay off. They both work really hard at it. A.J has been nothing but a pro. We all want him to explode one of these days. It will definitely help him and Joe and our offense in general. He's a great player. The work has to continue. They do a great job with it and I'm confident we're going to see it pay off here sooner rather than later."
HADES TO ICE: Burrow is going from the Ravens' hot-as-Hades blitz to the Ice Station Zebra fundamentals of the Colt' top-ranked defense. But even though the Colts are the polar opposite of the Ravens with a blitz percentage that is second lowest in the league, Callahan expects some pressure after Baltimore did it so effectively last week.
"We live by the moniker that you're going to get the blitz until you beat it," Callahan said. "That's for a veteran quarterback, too, just not a rookie, although it's certainly more applicable for a young quarterback. Teams are going to find out what you can handle. For the most part outside the Baltimore game we handled pressure fairly well.
"Joe sees it. Joe understands it. He knows how to get it directed and one game where we struggled isn't going to be the end all, be all for him at this point. Very confident in Joe's ability and our offense's ability to handle pressure. We expect them to bring it. We always have a plan for pressure."