Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown talks about the team's passing game as well as COVID-19 concerns.
For the most immediate consequence of how the NFL’s coronavirus outbreak has affected the Ravens this week, just look at coach John Harbaugh’s face.
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman joked last month that Harbaugh has over 100 neck gaiters, thanks in part, Harbaugh said, to his wife, Ingrid. He’s worn gaiters emblazoned with everything from the Ravens' logo to the American flag to artsy designs to a map.
But amid a rash of new COVID-19 cases among Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots players and personnel, the NFL has reorganized its 2020 calendar and tightened health and safety protocols. On Tuesday, the league announced in a memo that coaches could wear gaiters on the field only during games. In team facilities, gaiter masks, face shields, and masks with valves or vents are prohibited.
“We want to play, so we’ll do the best we can with all of it," Harbaugh said of the league’s new guidelines Wednesday, before he arrived at practice in a face mask. "That’s really all I think about on that.”
The coronavirus outbreak has already affected the Ravens' schedule, with the NFL giving the team a Week 7 bye and bumping its home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers back to Week 8.
For Tennessee and New England, the consequences have been more severe. The NFL’s investigation into how the Titans suffered the league’s first COVID-19 outbreak found “several specific incidents” of the team possibly breaking protocols dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the probe told the Associated Press.
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell warned all 32 teams Monday that following league protocols is mandatory and that violations forcing changes in the schedule could lead to forfeiting games. With the Titans placing starting wide receiver Corey Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, 22 cases have been linked to the organization, with 20 returned since Sept. 29.
The Patriots, meanwhile, canceled practices for Wednesday and Thursday after cornerback Stephon Gilmore became the third player on the team in five days to test positive for the coronavirus. Starting quarterback Cam Newton missed New England’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night after a positive COVID-19 test and was added to the reserve list Saturday. Practice squad player Bill Murray joined him on the list Tuesday.
The Ravens have not had a player added to the reserve/COVID-19 list since training camp opened. Quarterback Lamar Jackson said Wednesday that he goes home when he’s not at the team facility, where players are tested regularly, and he had confidence that his teammates would continue to avoid going out. “We’ve been fine here so far,” he said.
Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, however, said the outbreak raised his concerns “because I know those guys [in Tennessee and New England] are professionals.”
“I know they’re not trying to do anything to jeopardize themselves or their teammates," he said. "So for them to get it, it just shows how cautious you’ve got to be when you’re outside the building. It’s not just about you — it’s about the staff, the whole NFL. We’ve just got to be cautious when we’re away from the building.”
Jackson said opposing defenses have been more aggressive this season in their attempts to stop the run, running “downhill” and making it difficult at times to turn the corner and get upfield.
After a rookie season in which he struggled with the pain in his surgically repaired foot, Brown has been a regular at practice this season. It’s paid off so far.“If you don’t practice, it’s hard to get better, let alone maintain any kind of a level of execution,” said Harbaugh. Brown, who leads the team in catches (16) and receiving yards (242), said that “once I get in the game, it makes it a lot easier. It’s not like the first time that I’m doing something, so it’s been beneficial.”
Ravens rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen said he’s “good friends” with former LSU teammate Joe Burrow, now the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback, but that “things got heated sometimes” during their college practices. “It’s typical football stuff,” Queen said. “When one person gets heated, then stuff breaks out. That’s really all I want to say about that.”