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When Ravens president Dick Cass left the team’s Owings Mills facility on March 13, he said he knew that “we weren’t going to come back for a while.”
The coronavirus pandemic was gripping the sports world. The day before, the NFL had canceled its annual league meetings in Florida, and almost half of the NFL’s 32 franchises had announced a complete suspension of travel for coaches and scouts. The Ravens soon followed suit, requiring “virtually all team personnel” to work remotely for at least two weeks.
Seven weeks later, Cass is no more certain of when the Ravens will come back to work. But in an interview Friday with Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, Cass shared a framework for how they might come back.
It won’t be soon. With Ravens players participating in their offseason program remotely, Cass said he didn’t expect the team to return to the field for its rookie minicamp, offseason workouts or mandatory minicamp.
“We will not see players now, most likely, until the beginning of training camp,” Cass told Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, on Facebook Live. But he acknowledged that with social-distancing guidelines still in place, the typical late-July start date for camp was uncertain.
When Ravens employees and players do return to the team facility, safeguards will be in place, said Cass, who expected the NFL to announce leaguewide guidelines. The organization has acquired smart temperature monitors, he said, which will allow it to screen individuals entering the facility with a high temperature. Employees will be required to wear face masks and practice social distancing in the building, he said.
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Nonfootball staff also will be isolated from football staff and players at the facility. Cass said nonfootball staff will be barred from entering the dining room, cafeteria, auditorium and Ravens team meeting rooms. He also said the organization “probably” would not allow any guests into the building.
“We’ll just have to be very careful and try to protect our players as much we can,” Cass told Ferguson.
The league remains committed to releasing its 2020 schedule by May 9, and Cass said he expects teams to play 16 games next season. A four-game preseason schedule, however, is “up in the air,” he said.
The financial impact of an altered NFL season would be immense — not only this year, but beyond. NFL rosters expand from 63 players (including the practice squad) to 90 during the offseason, and the Ravens otherwise have about 200 full-time, nonplayer employees, according to Cass. On game days, as many as 3,000 additional workers help in and around the stadium.
Cass said Ravens officials have already made “alternative budgets," including for a normal 16-game season with fans in attendance, a 16-game season with no fans, and an abridged season. While Cass acknowledged that the organization faces a “very uncertain future,” he said that “we’re not laying anyone off.” If the pandemic affects the Ravens’ part-time employees, Cass said that “obviously, we’re going to have to do something for those people."
“Those are the uncertainties we’re dealing with," he said. "But every business, whether it’s a sports business or a nonsports business, is dealing with the same thing. I mean, budgets are being changed every day. Revenue estimates are being changed every day, because it’ll be a very different world for us if we cannot have fans.”