The Ravens, from the outside looking in, likely have their toughest week of practice of the season ahead of them in their most important stretch of the season.
But for other Ravens on the roster, and for the rest of the Ravens’ roster, they’re viewing this week as an opportunity.
After cornerback Marlon Humphrey tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, seven players were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list after being named as “high-risk close contacts” to Humphrey. All players listed are defensive players, and the list includes: Outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Tyus Bowser, inside linebackers L.J. Fort, Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison and defensive back Terrell Bonds and DeShon Elliott.
All of those seven players won’t be able to practice this week, and will only be cleared on Saturday. As of now, the plan is to play Sunday’s game against the Colts.
“I don’t think it’s a challenge, honestly,” safety Chuck Clark said. “From the outside looking in it might seem as if it’s a challenge, but here, in this sport or any sport, it’s the next man up type of thing. It’s honestly an opportunity for the younger guys and other guys that are just not starters right now to be able to get out there.”
The Ravens (5-2) are set to face the Colts in the midst of a five-game stretch that should play the biggest role in their playoff seeding at season’s end. And they’ll have to prepare for one of the best teams on their schedule without a full squad at practice this week.
“It really won’t be any different at all,” Harbaugh said. “Same number of reps, same concepts, we’ll just move guys around to different spots, create some opportunities for a few younger guys and then also the way we organize our defense for some guys to play some different spots. You look at it as an opportunity to create versatility within your defense.”
Clark added that, while he can’t speak for his teammates and only spoke for himself, he would make sure his off-field preparation was as strong as it could be.
Without Humphrey, the team’s All-Pro cornerback, the Ravens have two concerns. First, they’re concerned about their teammate’s health. Then, they’re concerned about replacing him on the field.
“It was a couple different emotions, but at first, hoping that he’d be alright,” Clark said. “Everybody has a different reaction to this virus and different outcomes. And then, thinking about the big picture of it, making sure we’d be alright as a team and hoping that we can stay safe.”
The Ravens have contingency plans for this week’s practice, and have prepared for such a week in the past. But without eight defensive players at practice this week, no one will be able to say it’s totally business as usual. “The communication is all the same,” Clark said. “We’ve been doing that, working on that week’s prior too, just in case something like this were to happen. That’s just what this 2020 season is. We know that any given week you can be down a key player, or key players.”