In mid-April, it was tough to imagine the Ravens’ practice fields filled with players for organized team activities.
In a statement shared by the NFL Players Association, the league’s players union, the Ravens had announced that, after team discussions, they had “decided to exercise our [collective bargaining agreement] right not to attend in-person voluntary offseason workouts.” They were far from alone; many other teams had already said no to in-person workouts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
At Wednesday’s voluntary practice, attendance wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a problem, either. Coach John Harbaugh estimated that about 80 players were taking part in OTAs. On the field, the unofficial tally of active players was closer to 65.
Among those missing were established veterans like wide receiver Sammy Watkins; tight end Mark Andrews; guard Kevin Zeitler; defensive linemen Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe; outside linebacker Pernell McPhee; and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters.
“[I’m] happy with the guys, happy with the work,” said Harbaugh, who indicated he wasn’t surprised by any absences. “Coaches are excited to coach. Players are excited to prepare and get better. It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun.”
“I just think it’s a lot of guys that love the game of football,” safety Chuck Clark said. “And honestly, they just want to be here to get better and perfect their craft and make the most of their career.”
Harbaugh said he’s spoken with the team about COVID-19 vaccinations, which are still voluntary. NFL owners and the NFLPA agreed Wednesday to relax protocols for vaccinated players, who will no longer be subject to daily testing, mask requirements, travel restrictions or quarantines if exposed to an infected person.
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Harbaugh said his message to players was made “not in terms of trying to influence anybody, but in terms of understanding what will be required if you’re vaccinated or not vaccinated. Those were kind of the biggest conversations we’ve had along those lines.”