Ravens left guard Bradley Bozeman is ready for the start of 2020 NFL season despite the peculiarity that will come from playing without fans in the stands due to COVID-19 precautions.
Now in his third season with the Ravens, Bozeman has always embraced the cheers that come from inside M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens are hosting the Cleveland Browns, who went 6-10 and finished third in the AFC North in 2019, in the first game of the year, and Bozeman believes the atmosphere Sept. 13 will be a bit strange at first.
“Probably running out of the tunnel,” Bozeman said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 8 of when he’ll first realize how strange game day is this year. “We did kind of a mock game day a couple weeks back and it was strange. They were playing the crowd noise and it was good. It was loud. But it’s just a different feeling with no one there and the crowds aren’t full of purple. It’s probably going to be weird from the jump.”
The 6-foot-3, 317-pound offensive lineman said although it’ll be weird at first, he and his team will learn how to cope and adapt to the new, fanless environment, especially after returning from a dominant 14-win season the previous year that ended with a divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The loss last year that seems particularly relevant right now is the 40-25 loss to the Browns in September. The Ravens returned the favor later in the season by beating the Browns, 31-15.
It may seem Bozeman and other NFL players are the people most affected by fanless games, but Nikki Bozeman, Bradley’s wife and a former Alabama basketball star, is also adjusting to not seeing her husband play from the stands. Instead of traveling to M&T Bank Stadium, Nikki will find herself alongside other wives and girlfriends of Ravens players and cheer from the couch.
“After the whole stress of cut week everyone seems to come into town — girlfriends, wives, everything,” Nikki said. “We’ll get to see a lot of new faces, which is always fun, and kind of just hang out. We’ll pick someone’s house [to watch the game], it kind of just rotates.”
Nikki explained the qualifications each house must possess to be chosen for game day.
“You have to have a very, very large TV,” Nikki said. “You have to have good working Wi-Fi so we can keep up with the other updates on social media, and I was going to say good snacks but everyone can pitch in for those, and you can’t be a real big heavy talker.”
Bozeman also wants his wife to be in attendance — just like he wants every fan to be — but he realizes the public health guidelines were set in place for a bigger purpose.
“I’m kind of bummed that we’re not going to be able to have fans, especially because my wife’s not going to be able to be there. But right now it kind of is what it is, and we’ve kind of all got to struggle together and get through it and hopefully get back to some normalcy later on in the season.”
Even though there will be no fans in the stands, the Ravens are using this as an opportunity to honor Baltimore super fan Mo Gaba, who passed away in July, with an entire section of cardboard cutouts. Bozeman was one of many athletes to develop a friendship with Mo, and he is proud to be a part of an organization that will continue share Mo’s story.
“Mo was such an inspiration to me and this community and I’m glad that we are able to bring on his legacy and let his legacy live on to share with more and more people,” Bozeman said. “I’m really excited about that. He has an entire section to himself.”
For more from Bozeman, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox