OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The sight of fans streaming into the Under Armour Performance Center for the first Ravens practice of training camp July 28 suggested that the Ravens had finally moved past the pandemic and returned to some semblance of normalcy.
But then the quarterbacks took the field, and COVID reared its head again.
Backup quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley took part in their early individual work, but starting quarterback Lamar Jackson was nowhere to be seen, and after practice, coach John Harbaugh announced that Jackson had tested positive for COVID-19.
Harbaugh didn’t say how long Jackson would be sidelined but noted that the team would follow all relevant NFL protocols.
According to the league COVID protocols put in place for this season, vaccinated players who are asymptomatic can return to the field after two negative tests 24 hours apart, while unvaccinated players must isolate for 10 days.
“We’re just not allowed to comment on any of those individual cases,” Harbaugh said, adding, “It’s just part of the deal. It’s just the way the world is right now.”
At minicamp last month, Jackson declined to answer when asked whether he had been vaccinated. Unvaccinated players must be tested daily, while vaccinated players are subject to testing every two weeks. Harbaugh said Jackson had begun testing last week and had tested negative until Tuesday.
Wide receiver Marquise Brown, one of Jackson’s closest friends on the team, said, “When hiccups like this happen, all we can do is rally around that guy, send our prayers and our support, and hopefully he’ll be back very soon.”
Jackson had a bout with COVID-19 last year as well. He tested positive in November and missed one game while on the reserve/COVID-19 list, part of an outbreak that landed nearly 20 Ravens players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
With nearly six weeks before the regular season opener at Las Vegas Sept. 13, Jackson would have ample time to return even if he faces a 10-day quarantine, and Harbaugh tried to downplay the absence of his 2019 MVP quarterback.
“It’s no different than if somebody gets an injury,” Harbaugh said. “You tweak an ankle or something, and you’re out for some number of days. It’s just part of football.”
The Ravens play their first preseason game Aug. 14 against the New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium.
With Jackson sidelined, McSorley and Huntley alternated taking reps in 7-on-7 and full-team drills, and each performed well, while Kenji Bahar, a Calvert Hall grad who played collegiately at Monmouth and had been with the team earlier in the spring, returned to the field as the third quarterback.
Huntley had perhaps the best throw of the day, as he connected with Brown on a 55-yard touchdown pass during a 7-on-7 drill. Brown used a double-move to get behind cornerback Davontae Harris, and Huntley’s throw hit Brown in stride down the right sideline.
McSorley threaded a nice throw to running back J.K. Dobbins down the middle during one team period, and earlier made a throw that tight end Josh Oliver hauled in with an acrobatic catch.
Neither quarterback threw an interception.
“Those guys had all the reps, and they did well, didn’t they?” Harbaugh said. “I was pleased with them. It’s only going to bolster those two guys and make those guys stronger than they would have been otherwise, and that helps our team get better.”
TRAINING CAMP NOTEBOOK
RB GUS EDWARDS ALSO TESTS POSITIVE: Harbaugh said running back Gus Edwards also tested positive for COVID-19, so he has joined Jackson on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list. Harbaugh said those were the only two positive tests, and that the overall vaccination rate for the team is at 90 percent and climbing. With Edwards sidelined, the top reps in the backfield will go to Dobbins and Justice Hill. Ty’Son Williams and undrafted rookie Nate McCrary will also get longer looks.
BAD SNAPS RETURN: In an unsettling reminder of last season’s troubles, center Bradley Bozeman sent two errant snaps back to the quarterbacks. After the second one, a frustrated Bozeman took off his right glove and tossed it aside. Bozeman, the starting left guard last year, took over at center this spring after snapping woes from Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari essentially cost both of them the starting assignment. Bozeman looked strong this spring in making the switch to center, the position he played in college at Alabama.
NINE SIDELINED: In addition to Jackson and Edwards, seven other players missed the first training camp workout, with most of them on the mend from significant injuries. That group includes cornerback Iman Marshall (knee), linebacker Otaro Alaka (knee), tackle Ja’Wuan James (Achilles), tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), tight end Nick Boyle (knee) and tight end Jake Breeland (knee). In addition, cornerback Anthony Averett missed practice because he had not passed the team’s conditioning test, Harbaugh said.
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