The Ravens ruled out wide receiver Dez Bryant for Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys about a half-hour before kickoff because of an illness, minutes after Bryant wrote on Twitter that he tested positive for COVID-19.
“Tell me why they pull me from warming up so I can go get tested... my [expletive] come back positive... I tested positive for Covid WTF,” he wrote.
Fox Sports, which broadcast the game, reported that Bryant had an inconclusive test returned from earlier in the day. Doctors pulled him from the field to retest him at the stadium, and the point-of-care PCR test returned positive. Bryant was sent home, and the Ravens ruled him out for the game with an illness.
“The crazy thing is i have the same damn routine.... this [expletive] do not make sense to me,” Bryant tweeted.
No Ravens players were identified as high-risk close contacts and all other players returned negative PCR tests administered earlier Tuesday.
“Contact tracing was conducted from yesterday and today using the contact tracing device and the standard interviews. There were no high-risk contacts identified,” an NFL spokesperson said. “This is a scenario that had been contemplated during the development of the protocols and one the league, clubs and NFLPA planned for. The protocols worked.”
The NFL protocols follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control, which defines close contact as living in the same household, being within six feet of someone for at least 15 consecutive minutes, or being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19, such as being coughed on.
The NFL has been operating under its intensive protocol since Nov. 18, which calls for, among other things, that all players and coaches must have a negative from the previous day’s testing before entering the facility, in addition to regular daily PCR testing; all meetings being held virtually unless they can be held outdoors or indoors with a pre-approved plan; and for face masks being worn at all times at the facility, including on the practice field by all personnel.
Bryant, wearing a neck gaiter pulled up above his nose, was on the field at M&T Bank Stadium catching passes from third-string quarterback Trace McSorley hours before his highly anticipated reunion with Dallas, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career and became the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown catches. He was not with the team during pregame warmups.
However, Bryant was photographed greeting several Cowboys players on the field, including once with his gaiter below his chin as he shook hands with Dallas linebacker Justin March. He later questioned the NFL on Twitter about why the game was allowed to take place on schedule.
“Since I tested positive for Covid before the game do the game stop or go on? @NFL,” he wrote.
In a stream of tweets during the game, a 34-17 Ravens win, Bryant also indicated that he wouldn’t return to the team, which signed him as a free agent in October, but then later wrote, “Yea I’m coming back... I’m being smart.” Bryant joined the 53-man roster Nov. 28.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he was not informed about Bryant’s positive test until after the team turned in its inactive players list 90 minutes before kick off. Given the timing of the news, he said he was unable to communicate with Bryant before the game.
Several players said they did not hear about Bryant’s positive test until they were on the field for warmups or returned to the locker room before pregame introductions. The team sought to replace Bryant on the game day roster with another player after his positive test was revealed, but the NFL declined the request, forcing the team to play with 47 players instead of the allotted 48.
“We’ve got to win that game for him because we know how much it meant to him,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said after the game. “He’d been talking about it for a minute now since he had been here. I don’t like what happened but it is what it is. We got the victory for him. I’m feeling for him though because I know this is a game he wanted to be in.”
Bryant tweeted after the game: “This was more than just another game for me... It wasn’t about revenge.. I didn’t need a catch... I wanted to make a point...”
Bryant will likely miss Monday night’s road game against the Cleveland Browns as he completes a 10-day quarantine. In three games, he has recorded four catches for 28 yards.
The Ravens have not placed a player on the reserve/COVID-19 list since rookie safety Geno Stone last Tuesday, which marked the end of 10 straight days of positive tests from players incited by a coronavirus outbreak in the organization that affected players, coaches, staff and their family.
Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement Saturday that a “highly contagious” strain of COVID-19 and noncompliance with NFL protocols led to the outbreak.
“I feel for Dez. I know he wanted to play in this game bad,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “He had a great week of practice. He was a great leader all week. It’s just sad that he didn’t get a chance to come out here and play against his old team on primetime football on Tuesday night.”
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