Ravens linebackers Jaylon Ferguson and Justin Houston and defensive linemen Justin Madubuike and Brandon Williams all were placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Sept. 24, leaving the Ravens’ defense short-handed for the game at Detroit on Sept. 26.
Players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list have either tested positive or have been deemed a high-risk close contact of someone who tested positive. Under league protocols this year, vaccinated players are not deemed high-risk close contacts.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley reported that Ferguson had tested positive.
Speaking after the team’s workout on Sept. 24, head coach John Harbaugh said, “I’m not allowed to comment” on COVID-related issues.
The league’s COVID protocols this year are markedly different for players who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated.
Vaccinated players who test positive and are asymptomatic must test negative twice 24 hours apart before rejoining the team. Unvaccinated players who test positive must self-isolate for 10 days, as quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Gus Edwards did at the start of training camp.
Unvaccinated players who are deemed high-risk close contacts must self-isolate for a minimum of five days. Vaccinated players are not deemed high-risk close contacts, but they can be subject to daily testing for five days as opposed to the weekly testing that is mandated for vaccinated players this year.
Losing these four players leaves the Ravens are dangerously thin across the front seven, where injuries have already been a factor.
Derek Wolfe (back/hip) hasn’t practiced since late August and will miss his third straight game, and losing Williams and Madubuike would leave the Ravens with three defensive linemen: Calais Campbell, Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington. Khalil McKenzie will likely be summoned from the practice squad.
Losing Ferguson and Houston would leave the Ravens with four outside linebackers in Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee and rookie Daelin Hayes. McPhee (shoulder) missed practice Friday, and Hayes (knee) has been limited and has yet to play in the regular season. Both are questionable for the Lions game.
Outside linebacker Chris Smith, an eight-year veteran who was with the team in training camp and then was added to the practice squad after being released in the final roster cutdown, is another likely callup.
Those on the reserve/COVID list can be replaced on the 53-man roster, and the Ravens already had two open roster spots. They can also make two standard elevations from the practice squad for each game. Any such moves must be made by Saturday at 4 p.m., so expect a flurry of additions to the Ravens’ game day roster.
The Ravens suffered one of the league’s biggest COVID outbreaks last year, with more than 20 players on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list at one point. Seventeen players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, missed the Ravens game at Pittsburgh, which was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night and then rescheduled twice before being played on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
This year, the league has said an outbreak among unvaccinated players on a team could lead to a forfeit.
Harbaugh has previously said that more than 90 percent of Ravens players are vaccinated.
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