A new policy announced by the NFL on Thursday will prevent Ravens fans from carrying most bags into M&T Bank Stadium this season unless they are made of a clear material.
The change follows a national trend toward increased security measures at sporting events, including the Preakness, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly used bombs made from pressure cookers concealed in backpacks to kill three people and injure 264 near the finish line of the race.
While the Ravens "strongly encourage" fans to not bring any bag into the stadium, clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags not exceeding 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches are permitted. The NFL has said it will sell such bags online at nflshop.com, although they were not available as of Thursday night. Alternatively, fans can bring materials in via a one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag or with a small clutch "approximately the size of a hand."
NFL and Ravens officials say the new measure will reduce the time it takes to get through lines to enter the stadium because bags will be easier to inspect. The Ravens already had in place a security policy that included pat-downs, bag checks and the use of metal detectors.
"Our focus is safety at our games, and this new policy helps that," Ravens president Dick Cass said. "Plus, with the use of clear bags, entering our stadium will be faster and more convenient."
Items not allowed in the stadium include large purses, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, seat cushions and camera bags. The ban does not cover hand-held items such as cellphones, cameras or blankets; it only prevents them from being carried in nontransparent bags.
Fans requiring bags for medical reasons will be able to go to a separate entrance to have them searched.
The new policy won't have an impact on tailgating, as coolers and bags still will be allowed in parking lots.
Ravens fans were not surprised to hear of the change because increased security measures have been common since the Boston attack April 15.
"We never take anything in, but I know some people that do," said Jeff Volmer, a season-ticket holder who is president of the Ellicott City Ravens Roost. "It's going to be an annoyance for them, but it sounds like they'll be able to adjust. I think it just fits with the changing times."
Volmer remembers his mother packing lunches for Orioles games at Memorial Stadium, and questioned why the NFL would need to have a stricter policy than the baseball team. Backpacks 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches or smaller are still permitted at Camden Yards. Orioles spokesman Greg Bader said no change to that policy is imminent.
"I guess the NFL feels they need more security because of the tailgating beforehand," Volmer said. "And there are more people at a football game. For most of us, it's not a huge inconvenience, though."
Charlotte Krause, president of the Ravens Roost governing council, said fans would adapt to the policy but might have to change their habits — and superstitions.
"I have a jersey bag that I always bring and another smaller one like that," she said. "I've been bringing them, and that's part of my routine. But it's just for my cellphone, cigarettes and mints, stuff like that. So it won't be a huge deal."
NFL officials acknowledged the stringency of the new policy but said they expected other stadiums and arenas to follow suit.
Several college venues, including the football stadiums at the University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University, do not allow bags of any type. The Kentucky Derby and the Preakness banned backpacks and coolers this year and instituted more thorough screenings at entrance gates. The Indianapolis 500 auto race instituted stricter rules, and fans complained of standing for hours in line as new guidelines were enforced by security guards.
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