Looking back at the year of COVID, seen through the Ravens

Andrew Gillis
·3 min read
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Looking back at the year of COVID, seen through the Ravens  originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Ravens found themselves at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic as it related to the sports world on two separate occasions, for two very different reasons.

Franchise legend Marshal Yanda officially retired from the Ravens a year ago, on March 11, just hours before the NBA officially shutdown and began the wave of sports leagues and major events suspending play. Of course, no one knew what was to come later that day, but it was the last major event the Ravens have had that resembled any sense of normalcy.

In November, the Ravens had one of the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in professional sports. More than 10 days of consecutive positive tests in the organization led to the postponement of the team’s game against the Steelers from Thanksgiving night to Sunday to Tuesday to Wednesday. 

In all, 23 players ended up on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. That included reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, tight end Mark Andrews and defensive end Calais Campbell. 

The first positive test from the roster was reported on Monday, Nov. 23, when Dobbins, Ingram and defensive tackle Brandon Williams were put on the COVID list. 

The following day, the Ravens had more confirmed tests and the first signs of trouble emerged as to the status of the team’s game on Thanksgiving, which was just 48 hours away. And on Wednesday, the game was moved to Sunday afternoon. It was later moved twice more.

That Wednesday night, the day before Thanksgiving, the Ravens released a statement that a staff member did not follow league protocols and was disciplined by the team.

The biggest news, though, came on Thanksgiving night, when Jackson was reported to have tested positive. The Ravens were then down to Robert Griffin III and Tyler Huntley at quarterback, though Trace McSorley would soon be added back to the roster.

More positive tests followed until Tuesday, Dec. 1, but another issue emerged: practice time. 

The Ravens had yet to see the field since the previous Monday, and held a socially distant walkthrough session on Monday, Nov. 30. At that time, they were unsure if they would have to play the Steelers the following day. They expressed their concerns to the league, as not only would they have to play the unbeaten Steelers after a COVID outbreak, they’d have to do so with literally zero practice time. 

Baltimore-Pittsburgh, thankfully, was able to be played on Wednesday afternoon at 3:40. The Ravens lost, 19-14, but rallied to win their next five games of the season (which included a Tuesday night game against the Cowboys).

“From the players’ perspective, it was a lot,” safety Chuck Clark said after the loss to the Steelers. “We’re trying to figure out whether we’re going to play, whether we’re not. We’re hearing different things from different sides, and I think there was some frustration at some point with players and with what happened. But then, we looked at the positive – that younger guys were going to go out there and get opportunities or guys who don’t play as much were able to get opportunities.”

It wasn’t an easy stretch for the Ravens to navigate at the end of the season, but they served as a notable reminder in sports of what things used to be like, and just how bad they could get.