About a month or so ago, the Baltimore Ravens were fined $250,000 for their lapses in protocol that resulted in there being a Covid-19 outbreak in their facility. It ultimately led to dozens of players, staff, and others becoming infected with the virus, and caused their Thanksgiving Day game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed three times, and a total of six days.
Head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders was ultimately identified as ‘patient zero’, as the individual to introduced the strain of the virus into the building, though it was later found that there were three or four different strains, only one of which—the one that came from Saunders—resulted in spread.
The Ravens suspended him for a short period of time, but welcomed him back when his suspension was over, and they all moved on. During his post-season press conference, head coach John Harbaugh was asked about his status with the team.
“Steve, I guess, it appears that he’s the guy who everybody thinks about, but we all had issues – players and coaches and staff – with the protocols, at times. Everybody in the league did, when masks were down, or guys were too close to one another”, he said, making the argument that ‘everybody did it’. “And every player, and every coach, and every scout, and every administrator would be, ‘quote unquote’, guilty of that. So, that’s the main takeaway there that I really believe, having gone through this”.
“Steve, he came back, and he was great. He went to everybody, apologized to numerous players, apologized to coaches”, he added. “He felt really bad about it. And he felt like he just really needed to make sure everybody knew that he just wanted to do better, and he didn’t want to put anybody in that position and learned a lot from it – and all those different things – and I really appreciated him for doing that. He went right back to work, and the guys went right back to work with him”.
Harbaugh credited Saunders’ work as head strength and conditioning coach for keeping the Ravens healthy over the years he has been with the team, and stressed that there are no plans to make any changes on the staff at this time, unless that involves somebody pursuing a better opportunity for themselves.
The Ravens’ outbreak was one of only a very small handful of large-scale outbreaks of Covid-19 that the NFL experienced over the course of the 2020 season. The Steelers, of course, were also involved in the other big outbreak when the Tennessee Titans’ own incident resulted in the game being pushed back to a later week.