The Ravens knew they’d have a tough last week of November ahead of them as soon as the league’s schedule was announced in the spring.
After a home game against the Titans, in a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional Round loss for the Ravens, they’d head to Pittsburgh on a short week for a Thanksgiving night game against the Steelers.
Instead, the next week was more difficult than anyone in the league, or in Baltimore, could’ve imagined.
On Sunday, Nov. 22, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram tested positive for COVID-19 and were put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list the following day. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was identified as a high-risk close contact and was put on the list as well.
The Ravens’ facility was closed in the morning, but was allowed to reopen in the afternoon for a walkthrough practice.
On Tuesday, the team’s media availability was canceled for the day as more players and staff tested positive and the facility was closed once again and the outbreak was on.
From Monday the 23rd through Wednesday Dec. 2, the team put: Ingram, Dobbins, Williams, Pernell McPhee, Calais Campbell, Patrick Mekari, Matt Skura, Jihad Ward, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Ricard, Justin Madubuike, Morgan Cox, Jaylon Ferguson, D.J. Fluker, Will Holden, Matthew Judon, Willie Snead, Broderick Washington, Tavon Young, Khalil Dorsey, Iman Marshall, Terrell Bonds and Geno Stone on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list.
On Wednesday of that week, the day before Thanksgiving, the league announced that the Ravens-Steelers game, scheduled for Thanksgiving night, was moved to Sunday afternoon. Later that night, the team released a statement that they had disciplined a staff member for COVID-19 violations. It was later confirmed to be team strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders, who has since returned to work.
Thursday, the outbreak hit its frenzied peak when Jackson reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, which put the game's status in serious doubt. The Ravens, at this point, were told they could not return to the team’s facility until Monday at the earliest.
The next day, the Ravens-Steelers game was moved from Sunday to Tuesday. More players were placed on the team’s COVID-19 list over the weekend, which raised questions about whether the game could be played or not, and whether the Ravens would be responsible and forced to forfeit.
Monday the 30th, the Ravens had a socially distant walkthrough and expressed concerns about having to play in Pittsburgh just 24 hours later. Later in the day, the game was postponed a third time, this time to Wednesday afternoon. One more player tested positive Tuesday (Stone), but the Ravens activated Williams, Trace McSorley, Young and Dorsey off the team’s COVID list.
By Wednesday, the Ravens were told there were no more positive COVID tests and they faced the Steelers that afternoon. They lost, 19-14, with a significant number of reserves and practice squad players on the active roster.
Since that time, the Ravens haven’t lost a game, but their COVID outbreak in November was one of the toughest weeks in franchise history, as well as one of the most notable sports stories of 2020.
The Ravens were recently fined $250,000 for the outbreak, but did not lose any draft choices as the outbreak is now totally behind them, at least off the field. On the field, a few Ravens players mentioned the difficulty of returning to the field as they struggled to regain their energy or their breath on the field.
That week was certainly one of the most challenging in franchise history, and one that nearly derailed part of the NFL schedule and could’ve taken down the Ravens’ season.
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