The Ravens played the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday — and almost beat them, too — with 17 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including seven Pro Bowl selections and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson.
With the timing of the team’s outbreak, the Ravens knew they’d be short-handed in Pittsburgh. They also knew most could be back by the team’s next game, a crucial Tuesday night matchup with the visiting Dallas Cowboys.
Under the league’s coronavirus protocols, players who test positive must self-quarantine for at least 10 days while continuing their testing. Players who are considered “high-risk” close contacts are sidelined at least five days.
But as Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated Thursday, the team has no control over when infected players can be cleared to return. If they’re asymptomatic, they can be rejoin team activities 10 days after they returned their positive test. Symptomatic players, however, can return only when at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and at least 72 hours after they last experienced symptoms.
Experiences with the virus have varied. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, the first Ravens player to test positive for the coronavirus this season, returned after 10 days on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell last week called it “brutal” on Twitter, and said he prayed “no one else has to go thru this.”
Guard Bradley Bozeman said after Wednesday’s loss, the Ravens’ third straight, that “a lot of guys had some symptoms.” But he said he didn’t think anyone was “super sick or anything like that.” Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown said Jackson, a close friend, is in “good spirits” and wished him a fast recovery.
Among those also sidelined are running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins, fullback Patrick Ricard and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. Tight end Mark Andrews, wide receiver Willie Snead IV and outside linebacker Matthew Judon all reportedly tested positive over the weekend, which means they’ll likely miss Tuesday’s game.
“They all have their different days when they’re possibly allowed to come back, but those are medical decisions, in the end, not coaching decisions,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “So when the doctors clear them to practice, that’s when we’ll have them.”
Asked whether he expected Jackson, who reportedly tested positive on Thanksgiving, to be available Tuesday night, Harbaugh said: “I think I already answered that.”
Ravens players had Thursday off, but they were expected to resume practice Friday. The team had just two walk-through sessions before facing Pittsburgh, and Harbaugh said it was important that the team “get our football sea legs under us.”
“As these guys do come back [from the reserve/COVID-19 list], when they’re cleared, how do you merge them in and where they’re at physically?” Harbaugh said. “So that’s something that will be very much a part of our thinking. We’re going to practice normally. We have to go out there and practice and do a good job and get ready to go. It’s going to be good to get practice in. We just need the practice more than anything. We haven’t practiced much. We haven’t practiced hardly at all.”
Eight Ravens players would not have practiced Thursday, according to the team’s estimated injury report.
On offense, quarterback Robert Griffin III (thigh) would have been a nonparticipant, while offensive lineman D.J. Fluker (ankle) would have been limited.
On defense, the Ravens would have been without defensive tackles Brandon Williams (ankle) and Broderick Washington (concussion), outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson (illness), cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), cornerbacks Tramon Williams (thigh) and Jimmy Smith (groin), and safeties Chuck Clark (knee) and DeShon Elliot (knee/ankle). Inside linebacker Kristian Welch (ankle) and cornerback Davontae Harris (thigh) would have been limited.
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The Cowboys also did not practice Thursday. Offensive linemen Zack Martin (calf) and Cameron Erving (knee), defensive end Aldon Smith (illness), cornerback Anthony Brown (ribs) and safety Steven Parker (ankle) would not have participated.