The primary reason that the NFL felt comfortable initially holding the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday following the initial postponement was because they believed that they had established the transmission window, and felt comfortable in their assumption that they were nearing the end of it.
The fact that the Ravens were in the facility on Monday and Tuesday for walkthroughs complicates the timeline in ways we may not realize, or even know later on down the road. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram tested positive on Sunday night, after which the league shut down the Ravens’ facility.
But they gave Baltimore the go-ahead to reopen later in the day, and they held an in-person walkthrough, putting players back together on the field, albeit in protective masks, as required by the intensive protocols.
“We all knew that us playing football would put us at a bigger risk”, Jamison Hensley quotes linebacker Matthew Judon as saying after that practice session on Monday. “We knew we [could] obviously get the virus, and we all knew that this wasn’t something to be played around with”.
Judon’s position mate, Pernell McPhee, would test positive later that same day. Again, the next day, the league shut down the Ravens’ facility, but this time, it didn’t happen until noon, and by that point, they had already carried out another in-person walkthrough.
That is two times since Sunday’s game that players were around each other. It is now Saturday, so we are talking about just four says ago to go back to Tuesday. It is not clear how this will affect Tuesday’s game, if at all, unless it is made abundantly obvious by players continuing to test positive into Monday and beyond.
It is important to note that one of the primary reasons that the league initially allowed the Ravens to reopen their facility is because they were scheduled to play on a Thursday, so they were under an abbreviated timeline.
After all, you’ve been around long enough to likely be aware that teams almost never practice on Mondays and Tuesdays following Sunday games. Especially this year, players are rarely even in the building in the early portions of the week.
From where we stand right now, we really can’t eliminate the possibility of the Steelers’ game against the Ravens being deemed unsafe to play on Tuesday, by which point it would almost inevitably require that it not be played until a later week—and given that there are no more free weeks, it would have to come in an as-yet-nonexistent 18th regular-season week.
It we do reach that point, it may well be because the Steelers and Ravens were supposed to play on Thursday, and the league really wanted that game to happen, and so took steps that may have prolonged the virus’ incubation period by putting players around each other in the two days following the game.