On Wednesday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens announced that the organization had “disciplined a staff member for conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases” that have affected the team’s players and staff.
Shortly afterwards, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that the staffer in question was a strength & conditioning coach, who allegedly failed to report symptoms and failed to consistently wear a mask and tracking device, “which may have contributed to the team’s rash of COVID-19 cases….”
Mark Maske, NFL reporter for the Washington Post, advises that the Ravens “could face potential discipline by the NFL if [COVID-19] protocol violations are established.”
In fact, Pelissero notes that the team’s decision to proactively discipline the assistant coach in question may be an attempt to incur a reduced punishment from the league, or even avoid punishment altogether.
By proactively disciplining the coach, the #Ravens potentially could reduce or avoid discipline they face from the league over an outbreak that forced the postponement of the Thanksgiving night game against the #Steelers. https://t.co/HKxL5WrJ2u
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 25, 2020
Precedent for Being Stripped of a Draft Choice
But if protocol violations are definitely established, it seems unlikely the Ravens will get away scot-free. On October 5th, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo stressing the importance of following COVID-19 protocols. The memo also noted that “protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game.”
The above-referenced memo came in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak among Tennessee Titans players, coaches and staffers, one that forced the league to postpone and then reschedule a game between the Titans and Steelers (and also required an adjustment to Baltimore’s schedule).
Baltimore’s COVID-19 outbreak has already caused the league to lose a primetime game on a national holiday, one featuring a matchup of two teams that maintain one of the best rivalries in the league. (The Ravens-Steelers game has been rescheduled for Sunday at 1:15 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally on NBC.)
Moreover, the league has already proved it will go so far as to take away a draft pick for COVID-19 violations. In early November, the NFL fined the Las Vegas Raiders $500,000 and stripped the team of a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 “for what one source described to ESPN as ‘brazen and repeated violations of [COVID-19] protocols.’” It’s worth noting too, that a Raiders game (against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) had to be moved out of primetime to an afternoon kickoff.
Baltimore Ravens: COVID-19 Update
At the moment, Baltimore has nine players on its COVID-19 reserve list, including running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, who were added to the list on Monday.
Expect the league to wait to see if further schedule disruptions are incurred before deciding on punishment. One of the reasons the NFL decided to move the Ravens-Steelers game from Thanksgiving night until Sunday is because the league believes it won’t know until Friday whether Baltimore’s outbreak has been contained.
It’s still possible that Ravens-Steelers won’t be played until “Week 18.” Or, in a worst-case scenario, the Ravens could be forced to forfeit to the Steelers, though no precedent has yet been set for a forfeit.
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