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Inside the outbreak: How COVID-19 hit Lamar Jackson and the Ravens – Baltimore Ravens Blog


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A year ago at this time, quarterback Lamar Jackson was all the rage in the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens were the league’s best team.

On Nov. 17, 2019, running back Mark Ingram first delivered the Ravens’ famous rallying cry, “Big Truss! Woot! Woot!”

Fast forward to November 2020 and Baltimore has no certainty over when its players can safely walk into the team facility, much less play its next game.

The Ravens have gone from a preseason Super Bowl favorite to the face of the NFL’s tumultuous and unpredictable 2020 season after a dozen players, including the reigning NFL MVP in Jackson, have tested positive for COVID-19 in Week 12. The eight Ravens players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week have totaled 45 starts and 2,291 snaps this season.

Baltimore has now had five straight days of positive tests. The coronavirus has spread throughout the organization, infecting players, coaches and support staff.

A look at how one of the toughest weeks in the Ravens’ franchise history unfolded:

Thursday, Nov. 19: A strength and conditioning coach for the Ravens tested positive, according to a source. He didn’t report symptoms and didn’t always wear a mask inside the team facility, the source added. To make matters worse, the coach didn’t wear his tracing device at all times, which made it more difficult to determine “high-risk” close contacts.

Sunday, Nov. 22: Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Ingram tested positive for COVID-19, just hours after the Ravens’ emotional 30-24 overtime loss to the Titans. These are the first reported cases of the week involving Ravens players in what would become one of the largest outbreaks in the league.

Monday, Nov. 23: The Ravens’ team facility is closed in the morning, but the NFL authorized Baltimore to reopen in the afternoon. After virtual team and position group meetings, the team conducted a walk-through where everyone wore masks.

“We all knew that us playing football would put us at a bigger risk,” Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon said after the walk-through. “We knew we [could] obviously get the virus, and we all knew that this wasn’t something to be played around with.”

Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who always ended his media sessions this year by saying “Stay positive, test negative,” becomes the third player this week to test positive. Nose tackle Brandon Williams is identified as a “high-risk” close contact and is put on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Tuesday, Nov. 24: The team facility is shut down a second time at noon. By that time, the Ravens had already conducted meetings and another on-field workout, a source confirmed.

At this point, the Ravens were still scheduled to leave the next day for Pittsburgh for their Thanksgiving night game at Heinz Field. The team had chartered an extra plane to increase social distancing.

Then, three more players — defensive end Calais Campbell, starting center Patrick Mekari and backup center Matt Skura — tested positive. There’s also a report that third-string quarterback Trace McSorley, who was already on the list after being identified as a close contact last week, also tested positive. That brings Baltimore’s positive tests for players to seven.

Wednesday, Nov. 25: At 12:50 p.m., the NFL announced the Thursday night game between the Ravens and the undefeated Steelers was moved to Sunday afternoon. This decision comes 31 hours before the scheduled kickoff. It has since been moved again, to Tuesday night.

That evening, the Ravens released a one-sentence statement that a staff member was disciplined “for conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff at the Ravens.” A source confirmed this was the strength and conditioning coach who had tested positive last week and didn’t follow league COVID-19 protocols.

Defensive end Jihad Ward, who was expected to replace McPhee (who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list), tested positive. He is the eighth Ravens player to get infected. A position coach as well as a support staff member also tested positive.

Thursday, Nov. 26: The Ravens’ outbreak creates its biggest headline when Jackson tests positive. He is among the four latest Ravens players to test positive, along with a staff member, a source said. The Ravens believe Jackson was infected Sunday, when he took snaps from Mekari during the game and was in close contact with Dobbins and Ingram because his locker is right next to theirs, a source said. Under league rules, Jackson will quarantine for 10 days, which means he would miss Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh (if it’s played) as well as Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys (if that’s not rescheduled).

In a span of five days, Baltimore has had 12 players test positive. Ravens coach John Harbaugh told his players they wouldn’t return to the team facility until Monday at the earliest in the interest of team safety.

“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.”

Friday, Nov. 27: The Week 12 games between the Ravens and Steelers is moved from Sunday to Tuesday. Baltimore will now play host to the Dallas Cowboys at 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7.





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