As COVID cases spike around the country along with the emergence of the omicron variant, the Ravens and the NFL are left navigating troubled waters.
After the league postponed three games and put more than 150 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week, infections don’t show any sign of slowing down. Thirty-eight players, including five Ravens, tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, according to the NFL. Forty-six more, including former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, tested positive Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know about the Ravens’ situation and how the virus is impacting the league as a whole:
Who’s on the Ravens’ reserve/COVID-19 list?
As of late Saturday, the Ravens had 15 total players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including 11 active-roster players and four practice squad members. They are:
- Quarterback Tyler Huntley
- Running back Justice Hill
- Inside linebacker Chris Board
- Outside linebacker Justin Houston
- Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike
- Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee
- Tight end Josh Oliver
- Cornerback Jimmy Smith
- Safety Geno Stone
- Inside linebacker Kristian Welch
- Cornerback Chris Westry
- Quarterback Chris Streveler (practice squad)
- Offensive tackle David Sharpe (practice squad)
- Wide receiver Jaylon Moore (practice squad)
- Wide receiver Binjimen Victor (practice squad)
When can players return from the reserve/COVID-19 list?
Under the NFL’s updated COVID-19 protocols, fully vaccinated players who test positive can clear protocol within one day if they register two negative tests and are asymptomatic. Players who are not vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days, which would rule out any player who tests positive for a game within that time frame.
Previously, a vaccinated individual that tested positive for COVID-19 had to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart before being cleared to return.
How often are players being tested?
The NFL, in cooperation with the players’ union, agreed last Saturday to scale back testing for vaccinated players. The move aligns with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends “diagnostic testing” only for symptomatic or close-contact vaccinated people, and “screening tests” only for unvaccinated people.
The NFL previously required vaccinated players to get tested weekly before amending the protocols. The NFL Players Association had advocated for daily testing for vaccinated players but eventually agreed to “target” testing.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated individuals will still be tested daily and have to stay away from the team facility for at least 10 days before they can be cleared to return after a positive test.
Almost 95% of NFL players and nearly all coaching staffs are vaccinated.
Besides testing, what else is being done to stop the spread of the virus?
Baltimore Ravens Insider
The NFL enhanced its COVID protocols last week. Under the guidelines, all 32 teams have to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, hold remote or outdoor meetings, stop in-person meals and prohibit outside visitors while on team travel. Weight rooms will also be limited to 15 people, all public appearances scheduled for players, coaches and front office staffers will be canceled and social gatherings larger than groups of three will be prohibited.
Along with new testing policies, the league is requiring coaches, front-office staff and team personnel to receive a booster shot by Monday. The league’s requirement extends to all Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals who have previously received the vaccine. Though players are in the Tier 1 designation along with coaches and trainers, the mandate doesn’t apply to players because discussions with the NFL Players Association are ongoing.
All players are provided home tests and anyone can be tested whenever they want.
Are most players experiencing symptoms?
According to Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, more than two-thirds of the total positive cases in Week 15 were asymptomatic, while most of the remaining cases featured mild symptoms. Dr. Tony Casolaro, chief medical officer for the Washington Football Team, said on a conference call that 21 of 23 players on the team who tested positive last week would’ve been able to practice based on mild symptoms.
“We believe what we are doing actually now will mimic what we have been doing in health care for quite a while now,” Sills said. “We are not routinely testing asymptomatic, vaccinated health care workers, doctors, etc. We are testing those who become symptomatic and meet certain criteria. So, we are really just joining what has been done in health care based on our own experience and the experience in health care up to this point.”
Will any teams need to forfeit games?
In July, the NFL said that forfeits were an option if a game could not be rescheduled and if the outbreak originated with an unvaccinated player. Much like last year’s thrice-postponed game between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers that was eventually played on a Wednesday afternoon, Sills said the decision to postpone three games last week was based on medical, not competitive, reasons.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.