After Baltimore's Thanksgiving night primetime matchup against the undefeated Steelers was postponed on Wednesday to Sunday afternoon, the continuing uptick in positive coronavirus tests in Baltimore on Thursday put the all-important game's status into question.
It's no surprise fingers would be pointed at the difficult situation the Ravens organization find themselves in, especially after Baltimore disciplined their strength and conditioning coach for not wearing a mask or reporting symptoms. ESPN's First Take chimed in, discussed the merits of going forward with playing the game on their Friday show.
"I think they should be very, very reluctant to play this game," said Stephen A. Smith. "But when you have three separate days moving forward throughout the week where guys ultimately have revealed to have tested positive, then to me that's not a chance worth taking. And as a result, I definitely think the game should be postponed, meaning canceled for this Sunday."
Smith's co-host Max Kellerman said if medical experts can declare the coronavirus situation is contained, then there shouldn't be any problems playing the game -- even if the Ravens come in with a competitive disadvantage.
If an investigation finds guilt within the Ravens organization, though, then he thinks Roger Goodell should hand down proper punishment accordingly.
"If they violated protocols, and they can't go on Sunday, they should forfeit the game," Kellerman said. "It should be a loss for the Ravens and a win for the Steelers."
While Smith had no problems with a Ravens forfeit should it be determined they broke league protocols, he was more worried that the NFL should be calling the game off.
"I don't see how any medical professional can say we've contained anything if you have tests on Sunday, Wednesday, and then on Thursday," Smith said. "If you're finding more and more positive tests throughout the week then that's not containment. Now, you're endangering of ultimately infecting the Pittsburgh Steelers."
"You should probably just immediately postpone the game," Kellerman added. "And after the fact, figure out whether that postponement means they will play a Week 18 game, or whether then the Ravens should forfeit the game."
Though Kellerman recognized money would be lost by both teams and the league if Baltimore forfeited, his biggest argument was to set an example for the rest of the league.
"At a certain point, you need incentives for good behavior and things that dissuade and punish bad behavior," Kellerman said. "And if we're not getting the Steelers bumped off primetime, they lose their mini bye week, all those things. No, if you're not following protocols, you should lose and the Steelers should win."
Despite this being the first game that's been impacted due to positive coronavirus tests in the last five weeks, Smith went on to suggest the NFL implement a league-wide bubble for the final month of the season in the next two weeks.
"They should have no say. You're asking them to make a sacrifice for maybe a month," Smith said. "I think that right now, more than ever during these next couple of weeks the NFL should look to enforce a bubble for these teams. There shouldn't even be a debate about it."
Kellerman pointed to record COVID-19 spikes nationally and relaxed attitudes with a vaccine down the pipeline as to why a bubble would be smart for the NFL to ensure a safe finish to its 2020 season.
"If they want to finish this season, that's exactly right Stephen A. Bubble-it-up now, and get safe the way the NBA did," said Kellerman.