It’s a fluid situation now for the entire NFL scheduling department, and the Ravens are the preview feature for the chaos which could ensue league-wide.
Baltimore Ravens star QB Lamar Jackson has tested positive for the coronavirus, US media reported Friday. Denver and San Francisco are also both facing serious Covid issues, a day before most of Week 12’s games are played.
The Broncos have the most pressing dilemma with all of their quarterbacks ruled out of Sunday’s clash with New Orleans due to exposure to a positive test, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Ravens have more than a dozen players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and their training facility is closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Jackson tested positive this week and will not play against the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers next Tuesday night, a game that was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night and postponed to Sunday before the NFL moved the game again.
With that game moving to Tuesday, Baltimore’s game against Dallas, scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 3, will instead be played at 5 o’clock on Monday, Dec. 7 and telecast by FOX/NFL Net/Amazon.
The NFL also has ordered all team facilities not involving teams playing Monday or Tuesday to be closed on those days. The Eagles and Seahawks play Monday night, and the Ravens and Steelers play on Tuesday.
“We appreciate the efforts of the NFL and Pittsburgh Steelers throughout this process, while we all work to create an environment that keeps the health and safety of everyone involved at the forefront of each decision,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Our organization has a plan in place, and we will be prepared to play the Steelers. We thank everyone for their adaptability and look forward to the challenge of facing a very good football team at Heinz Field on Tuesday night.”
Baltimore (6-4) will be decidedly short-handed against Pittsburgh (10-0).
Jackson, fullback Patrick Ricard, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, and long snapper Morgan Cox were added to the COVID-19 list on Monday. They join quarterback Trace McSorley; running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins; defensive linemen Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Jihad Ward; linebacker Pernell McPhee; and centers Patrick Mekari and Matt Skura.
Robert Griffin III is slated to start at quarterback for the Ravens on Tuesday against the Steelers. He will be taking snaps from a third-string center and handing off to backup running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.
“We just want to contain this outbreak! Speaking from experience … you don’t want to catch COVID!,” Campbell wrote on Twitter. “This virus is brutal! I pray no one else has to go thru this. This is bigger than football.”
This isn’t the first time this season COVID-19 has toyed with Pittsburgh’s schedule. The Steelers were scheduled to play Tennessee in Nashville on Sunday, Oct. 4. The league then pushed the game to either Monday or Tuesday. When the positive tests continued to roll in for the Titans, the NFL eventually moved the game to Sunday, Oct. 25, forcing the Steelers, in essence, to give up their scheduled bye initially set for Sunday, Nov. 1 — and finish the regular season by playing 13 consecutive weeks.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stressed he was hardly concerned with the switch, saying emphatically “we do not care” when asked about the team’s routine being thrown off.
Pittsburgh has cruised along anyway, though the league’s last unbeaten team has been forced to deal with its own COVID-19 issues in recent weeks. Tight end Vance McDonald tested positive following a win over Dallas earlier this month. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and inside linebacker Vince Williams were among a handful of players forced to self-quarantine for five days due to contact tracing. Roethlisberger and Williams still ended up playing in what became a 36-10 rout of Cincinnati.