The Ravens on Monday experienced their second coronavirus scare of the season, with a pair of positive tests from players briefly shutting down the facility.
The development immediately brought forth questions about the team’s Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, set to be played in less than 72 hours on Thanksgiving Night.
Here’s what you need to know.
Who tested positive?
Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II tested positive for COVID-19 and have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Neither player will play on Thanksgiving. The team said in a statement that it was informed late Sunday night about the positive tests, indicating that they were the results of tests given before the team’s game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Coach John Harbaugh said contact tracing has been conducted, revealing defensive tackle Brandon Williams to be a high-risk close contact. Williams, who did not play Sunday because of an ankle injury, has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for the second time this season and will not play Thursday.
If any more players test positive in the coming days, they and any other players deemed to be close contacts will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and they will not be able to play Thursday.
When can players return?
Under protocols agreed to by the NFL and NFL Players’ Association, if a player tests positive and is not showing symptoms, he can return after 10 days since the positive test or if he returns two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Marlon Humphrey, who returned a positive test Nov. 2, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and returned to practice Nov. 11.
If a player tests positive and is showing symptoms, he can return 10 days from the time symptoms first appeared and if 24 hours have passed since last experiencing symptoms.
Players who land on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a close contact can return after completing a five-day self-quarantine, so long as they continue to test negative.
Dobbins and Ingram would likely be eligible to return one day before the team’s Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 3. In this case, they would be able to participate in a walk-through before playing in their first game in almost two weeks.
When a player is placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a team is given the opportunity to replace him on the 53-man roster, whether that be through a free-agent signing or elevating a player from the practice squad to the active roster.
Is Thursday night’s game still being played?
Harbaugh told reporters Monday afternoon that his team was still preparing as if the game was going to be played on Thursday night. The team’s facility was reopened after being briefly closed and the team held a walk-through, with everyone wearing masks.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said in early November on a conference call that a postponement is only possible when the league “can’t find a common thread, can’t find a linkage and are having difficulty or an unusually large number of high-risk contacts.”
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The Steelers will have about 5,500 fans at Heinz Field on Thursday night but won’t allow fans for future games under Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s new orders that restrict attendance at outdoor venues to 2,500 people. The Steelers will only welcome family and friends of players and the organization after Thursday night.
Has a midweek game been in jeopardy before?
In Week 10, one day before the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers were set to play on Thursday night, both teams had to elevate several players to the active roster in the aftermath of positive tests within the organizations.
San Francisco was hit especially hard; left tackle Trent Williams and wideouts Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as high-risk close contacts.
However, the NFL ultimately decided that the threat of an outbreak had been mitigated and the game was played.
What is NFL doing to prevent a coronavirus outbreak?
The NFL on Monday sent a memo with expanded health protocols to every team. Among the new rules outlined, players are required to wear masks on the sideline. The memo also states that the league is limiting the number of people who can enter team facilities and travel with a team for games.
Play-callers now must wear a mask even if they have a face shield. Postgame interactions between players and staff will be limited. Also, players and team personnel must wear masks and may briefly greet opponents after games.
The league has been fluid in adding more protocols as teams continue to experience positive tests every week. The NFL has also threatened discipline, with punishment as severe as the forfeiture of draft picks, for failure to comply with protocols.