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John Harbaugh: Ravens strength coach ‘felt really bad’ about role in COVID-19 outbreak

"We didn't get the points we need and that's the bottom line," said Harbaugh after the 17-3 loss to the Bills in the divisional round playoff game.

Ravens head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders apologized to players and coaches for his role in the team’s widespread coronavirus outbreak, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday.

Saunders, who had not routinely worn a proximity tracker or mask, as required by NFL rules, and had not reported potential COVID-19 symptoms as he worked with players, according to sources, was suspended a month for his conduct relating to the outbreak. He returned to work in late December, and Harbaugh said at his season-ending news conference Wednesday that Saunders’ relationship with the team was “good” and “normal.”

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Over a 10-day span in late November and early December, nearly two dozen Ravens were placed on the NFL’s reseve/COVID-19 list, designated for players who’ve tested positive or been exposed to a “high-risk” close contact. President Dick Cass said in a statement last month that “at least four unique strains” of COVID-19 had entered the Ravens’ facility in Owings Mills. A “highly contagious” strain of COVID-19 and noncompliance with league protocols, Cass said, led to the outbreak, the worst in the NFL.

Harbaugh on Wednesday defended Saunders, who joined the franchise in 2016, saying, “We all had issues — players and coaches and staff — with the protocols at times.” But he said Saunders, who hasn’t publicly commented this season, “felt really bad” about his shortcomings in the incident.

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“He felt like he really just needed to make sure everybody knew that he just wanted to do better and just didn’t want to put anybody in that position, and [he] learned a lot from it and all those different things,” Harbaugh said. “And I really appreciated him for doing that. He went right back to work, and the guys went right back to work with him. They know he’s great at what he does.”

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