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Ravens president says coronavirus could force training camp out of Maryland, but ‘we don’t like that option’

Even with Maryland’s stay-at-home order set to be lifted Friday and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus declining, the Ravens could explore moving their training camp to an out-of-state site, team president Dick Cass said Thursday.

Social-distancing guidelines amid the pandemic have turned the NFL draft and offseason program into virtual events, and Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect.

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But Cass and team officials have been optimistic that training camp will start, as scheduled, in late July. The Ravens have held camp at their team facility in Owings Mills since 2011. McDaniel College’s Westminster campus hosted it for the first 15 years of the franchise’s history and was the site of Baltimore Colts training camp from 1953 to 1971.

“We’ll consider all options,” Cass said in a video conference call hosted by United Way of Central Maryland. "I think when we think about the option of trying to move our training camp outside Maryland, we don’t like that option. We think that we can conduct training camp safely in Maryland. We know that our building will be absolutely pristine, and I think the safest place to conduct our training camp will be in Maryland, at our facility.

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“But if circumstances don’t allow that, we will explore the options that are available to us. We have to.”

Cass, who doesn’t expect players to return to the team facility until training camp, acknowledged that “our priority has to be to keep our players and our staff safe and healthy. That’s the priority we’re going to focus on.”

Sports Illustrated reported Monday that a “number of teams” were already exploring alternative training camp sites in case state restrictions made holding camp at their local facility impossible. Camps often have well over 100 people on a practice field at once, including players, coaches, support staff and media. (In previous years, the Ravens also have been able to accommodate nearly 2,000 fans per day in Owings Mills, an unlikely prospect in 2020.)

The New York Giants have begun scouting potential training camp sites outside of their team facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With New York and New Jersey ravaged by COVID-19, coach Joe Judge told reporters Tuesday that the team’s football operations department is “mapping out a lot of different scenarios” if the Giants cannot train at home.

In California, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday that that the city’s stay-at-home order will be extended through July “with all certainty.” While Gov. Gavin Newsome later outlined plans to reopen businesses in the state, he said last month that mass gatherings were unlikely to resume this summer.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch told NBC Sports last week that the team, one of three in California, has looked at alternative sites for training camp.

"We’re trying to prepare ourselves for just about anything,” Lynch said. “I wish I could tell you, ‘Here’s how it’s going to go.’ No one knows that right now, and we’re all kind of eagerly awaiting information.”

Note: Cass said the the Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation will make a “significant” contribution to local relief efforts in the coming days. Steve Bisciotti has been the team’s majority owner since 2004.

Cass also said that the Ravens are developing an employee assistance fund in case Ravens games are canceled or attendance is restricted in Baltimore next season. On game days, as many as 3,300 people work for the Ravens or for a Ravens contractor, according to Cass, who said the program’s on track to be in place by the start of the season.

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