The NFL and NFLPA investigation into the Ravens‘ violations of Covid protocols will take weeks to wrap up, sources said, with concerns raised by players and others in the organization about a member of the strength staff, a team chaplain and a nutritionist, league and union sources said.
Much of the attention to this point has focused on mitigating an outbreak that was transmitted through the roster by a strength coach who, sources said, came to work despite being ill and who did not abide by facemask protocols. However, there are also concerns about chaplains and nutritionists also not following all facemask and social distancing edicts as well, sources said, with a number Ravens players passing along their concerns to their agents and the NFLPA.
The Ravens already suspended the strength coach, and league sources said the team has been diligent and extremely forthcoming with the investigation. League and union sources said that, although the probe is still ongoing, discipline is almost certainly coming for the Ravens, with some likening it to the Titans outbreak which resulted in a $350,000 fine.
Baltimore’s outbreak affected the families of players and staff and resulted in their Week 12 game against the Steelers being postponed nearly a week as multiple members of the organization tested positive daily. No Ravens player has tested positive since practice squad safety Geno Stone went on the Covid restricted list on Tuesday, sources said, but players were also alarmed by the ongoing spread of the virus and discussed their options regarding playing this Week 12 game among themselves and with union leadership.
The team voted that it did not want to play the game last Tuesday, after the game was moved from Thursday and Sunday, sources said, out of health concerns. Numerous team leaders made it clear to Ravens’ management and the NFLPA that they were uncomfortable having to play the game then, but ultimately were advised by NFLPA leadership that withholding their services would result in forfeiting on their contract and would directly violate their collective bargaining agreement and could result in them forfeiting future games as well, sources said. Furthermore, it would result in the players also not being paid.
The NFL opted to move the game to Wednesday, although a large portion of Baltimore’s roster still had concerns about the spread of the virus and their lack of preparation for the game. Tensions rose again on Tuesday evening when team management asked the team’s leadership council to exit the team planes to inform them that Stone and other staff members had tested positive, sources said. Stone had been participating in walkthroughs Monday and Tuesday, but the Ravens’ brass informed them that the NFL/NFLPA protocols have already identified Stone as a likely close contact and their doctors maintained than the new protocols in place for those walkthroughs — with more stringent facemask requirements and expanded social distancing — would prevent further spread.
The players were informed that the kickoff was still set for Wednesday afternoon, and they proceeded as such though sources said they did continue to discuss their options among themselves at the team hotel. Sources with the NFL and NFLPA reiterated this weekend their belief that Baltimore’s outbreak is over, and there is every expectation that they will host the Cowboys on Tuesday night. The Ravens are hopeful quarterback Lamar Jackson will be available for that game (he must test negative to be cleared from the Covid restricted list).