The Baltimore Ravens appear to be dealing with what is so far the second-largest confirmed Covid-19 outbreak in the NFL, the largest being that of the Tennessee Titans. Both of those events just so happened to occur right before those teams were scheduled to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is, of course, nothing more than a coincidence.
As I write this, they have nine players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, and that does not include Lamar Jackson and Jihad Ward, who were revealed to be positive yesterday. It was reported that four players tested positive, so today we should expect them and two additional players to be added to the list.
That would make 12 total confirmed positive cases, including Iman Marshall, a young cornerback who has been injured and was not part of the current outbreak incident. He has been on the Reserve/Covid-19 List for two weeks already as of yesterday.
Generally speaking, that’s okay. I thought it was important to make this clear, though I touched on it yesterday in the FAQ that I put together. Considering this an expansion of one point in that FAQ, which is why games are postponed.
Competitive fairness, as long as it doesn’t affect a team’s ability to actually field a roster, has nothing to do with the league’s decisions regarding postponing games. The New England Patriots have already played a game without their starting quarterback. Teams like the San Francisco 49ers have played games with somewhere around double-digit players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List this season already.
The issue is whether or not the league and medical professionals can reach a level of comfort with the transmission window of the virus. Basically, whether or not they believe there is a meaningful risk that players who are active with Covid-19, even without testing positive, can transmit the virus to others through games and related activities.
It’s important to establish the fact that any decision that might be made relative to moving Sunday’s game back or even to another week has nothing to do with the league wanting to allow the Ravens to get some players back who are on the Reserve/Covid-19 List because it’s too much of a disadvantage to play without them. It simply isn’t a part of the equation. From that perspective (and that perspective only), it is treated the same way any physical injury would.
While a lot of things can still change over the course of the next few days, my expectation is that the game will be played next week, whether it’s Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, and the Ravens will be starting Robert Griffin III at quarterback, Gus Edwards at running back, and on down the line.
The only thing that would force them to stray from this would be if they continue to trigger new and unpredictable positive cases, which leaves experts uncertain as to whether or not there is a significant risk of further contamination by playing the game. In that event, the Ravens’ Thursday game next week would also likely be moved.
Note: The NFL competition committee added roster flexibility — 16-man practice squads, unlimited IR-return, etc. — for issues like the #Ravens’ COVID-19 outbreak. The stance has been any schedule changes are medical decisions, not competitive decisions. Who’s out is irrelevant. https://t.co/Zpjnd1QLh4
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 27, 2020