The Ravens placed starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, one day before a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Because Williams did not test positive for the virus, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, the game is still expected to be played. Williams was in close contact with an infected person, the source said, meaning he will miss Sunday’s game.
Williams is the first Ravens player to be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list since practice squad safety Nigel Warrior was designated in late July, as the team began training camp. Williams did not participate in Thursday’s practice for what the team listed as noninjury-related reasons. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Williams missed Friday’s practice because of a “personal excused absence.”
Under NFL and NFL Players Association protocols, players who are exposed to any individual confirmed to have COVID-19 must isolate for no fewer than five days before returning to team facilities, regardless of PCR test results. Players must test negative for the coronavirus each day during quarantine and receive approval by Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, before rejoining their teams.
A dozen NFL games have already been postponed this season because of COVID-related scheduling adjustments. The league bumped the Ravens' Week 7 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to Week 8, when they were scheduled to have their bye, after an outbreak among Tennessee Titans players and staff forced the rescheduling of the Titans-Steelers game. Williams was asked late last month what it would take to avoid a similar rash of infections.
“Wash your hands,” he said Sept. 30. "Sanitize as much as possible. Wear your mask. Do as much as you possibly can to protect you and the family and the people that you love. Sometimes if you catch it, you catch it. Sometimes it just is what it is and it’s inevitable. I pray for all those people who got COVID-19 and the teams that have those cases on their team, but it just is what it is. Continue being safe, continue wearing your PPE, continue staying clean; that’s all you can do.”
The Ravens (4-1) were already likely to be without one starting defensive lineman Sunday; defensive end Derek Wolfe is doubtful to play because of a neck injury and concussion that forced him to miss Friday’s practice.
With Williams now sidelined for Sunday’s game against the Eagles (1-3-1), veteran Justin Ellis will likely start at nose tackle for the first time since 2018. Rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington will likely take on expanded roles, as could defensive end Calais Campbell.
The Ravens moved safety Marcus Gilchrist from the practice squad to replace Williams on the active roster, according to the NFL transaction wire. Gilchrist was elevated to the active roster last week against the Cincinnati Bengals; he played 20 defensive snaps and also contributed on special teams.
The team also elevated undrafted rookie inside linebacker Kristian Welch to the active roster for Sunday’s game. It’s Welch’s first call-up of the season and he’ll revert back to the practice squad on Monday.
The Ravens' run defense has struggled in recent years without the durable Williams. The Cleveland Browns averaged 6.7 yards per carry and finished with 193 overall in a Week 4 win he missed because of injury last season. During a four-game absence in 2017, the Ravens allowed 169.5 rushing yards per game, though just 4.3 yards per carry.
The Eagles on Friday added starting offensive lineman Matt Pryor to the reserve/COVID-19 list, but he reportedly did not test positive or show symptoms. Up front, Philadelphia is expected to start just one offensive lineman, center Jason Kelce, who played for the Eagles last year.