As a Type 1 diabetic, Ravens tight end Mark Andrews is constantly monitoring his health. He checks his blood sugar several times during games and wears an insulin pump when not on the field.
This underlying condition could lead to more serious complications if Andrews were to contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but Andrews, the son of a doctor, said he gave no thought to opting out of the 2020 NFL season.
More than 60 NFL players chose to forgo the 2020 season because of the pandemic, a binding decision that needed to be made by Aug. 7.
“Opting out never really crossed my mind,” Andrews said during a video news conference from Ravens training camp. Andrews, who was first diagnosed with diabetes at age 9, stressed that the safety protocols put in place by the league in conjunction with the players association “are very encouraging. I think they got a great system in place.”
Players had to test negative for COVID-19 multiple times before even entering the facility to begin training camp, they are tested daily during the first couple of weeks of training camp, and social distancing measures, tracking systems and other protocols have been put in place to try to create a safe working environment for 80 players and staff.
“The Ravens have done an incredible job of … enforcing all the protocols,” Andrews said. “Guys are wearing their face masks, guys are social distancing. … We’re doing everything we can on our end to be safe and smart.
“I think we all have a common goal to have the season,” he added, “and I think people are more focused than ever to really achieve that.”
Andrews, who turns 25 just before the season opener in September, was a breakout star during the Ravens’ record-setting 14-2 season in 2019. He led the Ravens in receptions (64) and receiving yards (852) and led all NFL tight ends in touchdown catches (10) en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance.
But as he prepares for his third NFL season, he sounded like a player still driven to prove himself.
“Last year was a good year, but there’s a lot of room for me to improve,” Andrews said. “I want to be the best tight end. I’m not there yet. I’m excited to be able to show what I can do this year.”
Andrews said his blocking ability was a major point of emphasis this offseason, and he recognized that he could be called up on to assume larger role as a blocker this year after the offseason trade of Hayden Hurst.
The Ravens used more three tight-end sets than any team in the league last year, with Nick Boyle and Hurst doing more of the grunt work in the blocking game. Andrews played just 41 percent of the offensive snaps for the Ravens — the same as Hurst — while Boyle, a blocking cog in the Ravens’ record-setting running game, played nearly 70 percent.
Pro Football Focus ranked Andrews as the No. 2 tight end overall last year behind George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers but 12th among qualifying tight ends in run blocking.
“I’m going to make big strides in that area this year,” he said, “and have a lot more opportunities to do that this year. … I want to be dangerous in all situations.”
Toward that end, Andrews (6-foot-5, 256 pounds) said he went through what he described as his hardest offseason, including workouts via Zoom organized by Ravens head strength and conditioning coordinator Steve Saunders.
The Ravens lost all spring OTA workouts and June minicamp after the NFL shuttered all league facilities because of the pandemic, but Andrews said the Saunders-led workouts — along with on-field blocking work using his older brother as his opponent — have paid big dividends.
“I’m stronger than I’ve ever been,” Andrews said. “I have less fat on me than I’ve ever had. I feel incredible.”
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