Ravens running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins have tested positive for COVID-19, coach John Harbaugh said Monday, and will miss the team’s Thanksgiving Day game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was also added to the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list as a “high-risk” close contact and will be unavailable for Thursday’s game, which remains on as scheduled.
The Ravens (6-4) briefly closed their team facility Monday in Owings Mills after they were informed of multiple positive tests in the organization late Sunday night. But with contract tracing completed, the Under Armour Performance Center had reopened by late Monday afternoon, and Harbaugh said the Ravens would hold a masked walk-through after completing virtual meetings.
“We’re just carrying forward with our normal schedule at this point and working hard and getting ready for a big challenge Thursday night,” he said.
On Monday evening, the NFL sent a memo to clubs tightening COVID-19 protocols, including a sideline mask mandate for players not entering the game or wearing a helmet. It also reduces the number of players allowed to travel and the number of people allowed at the team facillity, as well as limits postgame interaction between clubs. Players who fail to wear masks on the sidelines will be subject to discipline.
The Ravens’ positive tests come as the state reported another 1,658 people have the virus Monday — the 20th consecutive day of 1,000 or more new infections being reported. The number of people hospitalized rose Monday to 1,276, which is quadruple what it was in early October.
Ingram and Dobbins were tested before Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans, a 30-24 overtime loss in Baltimore, while Williams was out with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 10 against New England. Dobbins, a second-round pick whose role has grown in recent weeks, led the Ravens with 15 carries for 70 yards and a rushing touchdown. Ingram, a Pro Bowl selection last season and the Ravens’ normal starter, had just two carries for 2 yards.
With both unavailable, Gus Edwards will step in as the team’s primary back in Pittsburgh. Running back Justice Hill, who has one catch and no carries this season, will also likely see his workload grow. Undrafted rookie Ty’Son Williams could be elevated from the practice squad to provide depth.
“The run game is always a group effort,” Harbaugh said. “All 11 guys are involved in that, certainly, and I’m sure we’ll run the ball on Thursday night.”
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Because the Ravens’ Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys is on Dec. 3 — exactly a week after Thursday’s game — it’s unclear how prepared Dobbins and Ingram would be for a potential return to action. Players who are asymptomatic can return, at the earliest, 10 days after their initial positive test, meaning Dobbins and Ingram couldn’t rejoin team activities until at least Dec. 2, the end of another week of practice.
Even in good health, the Ravens’ running game has struggled in recent weeks. Hurt by injuries to key blockers, the Ravens’ running game has struggled in recent weeks. They averaged just 4 yards per carry against the Titans and Patriots, two of the NFL’s worst run defenses. Pittsburgh (10-0), which would eliminate the Ravens from the AFC North title race with a win Thursday, entered Week 11 with the NFL’s No. 6 rushing defense and No. 2 defense overall, according to Football Outsiders.
Hours before Dobbins’ positive test was reported, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Monday that it was “obvious that he is their featured runner now.” The Ohio State product had a game-high 113 yards on 15 carries in the Ravens’ Week 8 loss to Pittsburgh, while Edwards added 87 yards on 16 attempts. However, the return of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, who missed most of the game after an early injury, should bolster the Steelers’ strong interior line.
The Ravens have now had 13 players added to the reserve/COVID-19 list this season, including Williams, who’s twice been designated. He was first placed on the list one day before the team’s Week 6 game against the Philadelphia Eagles after having exposure to an infected person.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was also sidelined after testing positive before the Ravens’ first game against the Steelers. (Because of the lag in processing the tests, he played in the loss.) Seven players deemed to be high-risk close contacts with Humphrey were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and later moved to the active roster after completing their self-quarantine. Humphrey missed the Ravens’ Week 9 game against the Indianapolis Colts but returned the following week.
“It’s a crazy kind of time that we’re living in,” tight end Mark Andrews said Monday. “It kind of goes with this year. There’s going to be things thrown at you, and you have to adapt.”