Four Ravens were placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, leaving their defense short-handed for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams, defensive end Justin Madubuike and outside linebackers Justin Houston and Jaylon Ferguson will not be available in Week 3. Ferguson has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, the third Raven to do since training camp, after quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Gus Edwards.
Under NFL protocols, fully vaccinated players who test positive need to return two negative tests at least 24 hours apart to be cleared for team activities, as long as they’re asymptomatic. Vaccinated players will not be designated as high-risk close contacts, but can be held to daily testing for five days.
Unvaccinated players with infections must quarantine for at least 10 days, while unvaccinated players who are deemed high-risk close contacts must sit out at least five days and continue to test negative throughout.
Coach John Harbaugh has said the Ravens’ vaccination rate is above 90%. He declined to comment Friday on the team’s coronavirus situation, citing league policy.
Houston, Williams and Madubuike started the Ravens’ first two games, with the trio playing 60.6%, 45.6% and 42.3% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps, respectively. Ferguson, meanwhile, has played more special teams snaps (15) than defensive snaps (11) through two weeks.
All four are considered strong run defenders, and the Lions will look to test the Ravens’ depth and execution up front. Through two games, Detroit is just 13th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (112) but fourth in average (5.2 per carry).
In addition to linemen Calais Campbell, Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington, the Ravens could call up tackle Kahlil McKenzie and outside linebacker Chris Smith. Rookie outside linebacker Daelin Hayes practiced fully Friday and could make his season debut Sunday, fortifying the depth behind Tyus Bowser and rookie Odafe Oweh.
Friday’s moves mark the first time this season that the Ravens, who had the NFL’s worst COVID-19 outbreak last season, have had their game plan affected by the virus. In late August, Harbaugh was asked whether he’d talked to his team about the importance of getting vaccinated, in light of the FDA’s full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine.
“Our players are getting the best advice from doctors that do know, and they’re making rational decisions based on what’s best for them in their opinion,” Harbaugh said. “What else can you do? Am I going to disrespect them by going in there and saying, ‘You’re making a wrong decision. You’re making a bad decision?’ I just think that’s disrespectful.
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“To someone that’s thoughtful about it and has thought about it, they understand the consequences. There are consequences if you get the vaccine. There are consequences in life; nobody gets out of life alive last time I checked. So our focus is going to be on having a great day today and let the chips fly.”
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Line: Ravens by 8