In a normal year, the Ravens would’ve already played their first preseason game and would be currently preparing for their second.
This would be after months of offseason workouts at the team’s facility in Owings Mills, Maryland, where team rookies and new additions would’ve had plenty of time to learn the system, meet new people and run through plays with the rest of the team.
Yet it goes without saying that, in 2020, there is nothing normal about not only the NFL calendar, but life as a whole.
And while there are still elements of a world in a pandemic — the lack of fans at training camp, coaches wearing masks and social distancing regulations away from the field — for a brief 90-minute practice Monday, the Ravens were able to escape it all.
“It felt good to be back in the pads,” Matthew Judon said. “This virus has infected a lot of us and it’s impacted the whole world and it’s impacted how we do things on a daily basis in and outside the building. With that being said, going forward, football is different. Just being back out there with the guys, getting a sweat going, starting plays and more contact, for just a split moment, it felt like we didn’t have to worry about this virus.”
The league has implemented strict policies for the entire league to follow, which the Ravens have received high praise for from players in the organization.
Constantly, players are reminded to wash their hands, wear masks and keep their distance from one another as best as possible. But that’s inside the building.
“It seems like it’s kind of setting in with the whole mask thing,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “It took a pretty long time to really get used to it, but when you get back on the grass, it’s all pretty normal. You’re out there practicing with the guys, having a good time, grinding it out, blood, sweat and tears. That’s kind of really the only normal thing you’ve got going.”
On the practice field, the players are in their own world, seemingly far away from the virus that has left just shy of 170,000 United States citizens dead.
“It was just exciting to finally get out there and finally play some real ball with the pads on, be able to physically grab and move guys and all of that different stuff,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “We were all excited to get back in the building two weeks ago, it was a whole other level of energy today.”
Most Ravens have commented how they’ve been adamant about keeping social distancing measures in place not only at the practice facility, but at home as well. They’re not looking to have a situation unfold like that of the Marlins or Cardinals in Major League Baseball.
The preventative measures the Ravens have put into place don’t necessarily erase the fear, though. With the long-term effects COVID-19 can have on the body still unknown, there’s a level of risk the players assumed by reporting to training camp.
Two players, offensive tackle Andre Smith and kick returner De’Anthony Thomas, opted out of the 2020 season.
“It’s scary, in a way, because we don’t understand the effects of this virus long-term from an individual standpoint,” Brown said. “If I get it, is it something that’s going to affect me for 10 years? Where if somebody else catches it, it may only be for five or six months. That’s really where the uncertainty, for me, kind of comes from.”
This season won’t be normal for anyone, from the league offices all the way down to season ticket holders who might not even be allowed inside a stadium.
But for the players, they’ll be as safe as they can and be mindful of the virus when in the building and at home in their personal lives.
During their practices, however, is their time to let loose.
“For me, I’m locked into the season, I’m ready to play some ball,” Brown said. “It’s unfortunate things haven’t been taken care of from the virus standpoint and we’re not able to get it under control as a nation. But hopefully we get to that point, right now I’m really focused on being ready week one.”