The Ravens hope the seven defensive players currently isolating away from the team facility will be available to play against Indianapolis on Sunday.
How they might fare after missing an entire week of practice is anyone’s guess.
“We’ll find that out. I think it’s impossible to predict that,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who confirmed they can be activated from the reserve-COVID-19 list in time for Saturday’s walk-through if they continue to test negative and remain symptom-free. “You see guys who, sometimes, they don’t practice all week and they come out and play the best games of their careers. Other guys struggle and they might miss something.”
In the meantime, the Ravens returned to the practice field Wednesday without Matthew Judon, Patrick Queen, DeShon Elliott, L.J. Fort, Tyus Bowser, Malik Harrison, and Terrell Bonds, leaving the defense extremely thin at both linebacker and in the secondary. Those players continue to take part in virtual meetings with the rest of the team and are expected to do their best to stay in top physical shape between now and the weekend.
Their lack of on-field work is an obvious challenge preparing for veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and the Colts offense, but Harbaugh is labeling it a chance to build defensive versatility with inside linebacker Kristian Welch, safeties Geno Stone and Nigel Warrior, and cornerback Nate Hairston among the members of the practice squad who could see Week 9 action if any number of the “close contact” players are unavailable for Sunday.
“It’s honestly an opportunity for younger guys and other guys who are just not starters right now to be able to even get out there,” safety Chuck Clark said. “The communication is all the same. We’ve been doing that, working on that in weeks prior too just in case something like this were to happen because that’s just what this 2020 season is. We know that any given week you could be down a key player or key players.”
In addition to knowing All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey will be out this week after testing positive for the virus, Baltimore was once again without veteran running back Mark Ingram for Wednesday’s practice. The 2019 Pro Bowl selection continues to be sidelined with a high ankle sprain sustained in the Week 6 win at Philadelphia. Ingram was the only player on what remains of the active roster to miss Wednesday’s workout due to injury.
In addition to Humphrey and any others who may need to remain on the reserve-COVID-19 list beyond Saturday, the Ravens will have two other spots to fill on the 53-man roster after placing left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and right guard Tyre Phillips (ankle) on injured reserve on Tuesday. Only 44 players were on the active roster as of Wednesday night.
It’s unclear whether veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant will be elevated from the practice squad to play against Indianapolis after his second week of practice since joining the Ravens, but quarterback Lamar Jackson likes what he sees from the three-time Pro Bowl selection who hasn’t played in an NFL game since the end of the 2017 season.
“He’s a great route runner. He has strong hands,” Jackson said. “He’s dialed in into the playbook. He’s always asking me questions about the playbook — stuff like that. He wants to compete.
“I just can’t wait until he gets out there with us on Sundays and fully practices with us.”
Asked about wide receiver Marquise Brown’s since-deleted tweet expressing frustration about being targeted just twice in Sunday’s 28-24 loss to Pittsburgh, Jackson agreed the speedy wideout needs to be more involved for the passing game to thrive. Brown had been targeted at least six times in each of the first six games and leads the team with 27 catches for 379 yards, but the Ravens enter Week 9 ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game and 21st in yards per passing attempt (7.1). Football Outsiders ranks Baltimore 24th in its passing efficiency metric.
“That’s one of our key players to our offense,” said Jackson about Brown. “We want to get him the ball the easiest way, the fastest way that we can. We just have to do a better job of getting it to him. He’s a big part of our offense and we need him. So, we just have to do better at that, and we’ll be fine.”
Harbaugh said he hadn’t received an update on how Humphrey was feeling since receiving his positive COVID-19 test result on Monday.
Despite not having any virus-related drama this week, the Colts are dealing with their own health issues as four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin) missed Wednesday’s practice and center Ryan Kelly (knee), tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee), and running back Jonathan Taylor (ankle) were limited participants.
Below is Wednesday’s full injury report, which doesn’t include players on the reserve-COVID-19 list:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Calais Campbell (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thigh)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Julian Blackmon (non-injury), TE Trey Burton (non-injury), WR Ashton Dulin (knee), WR T.Y. Hilton (groin), DE Justin Houston (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Mo Alie-Cox (knee), C Ryan Kelly (knee), RB Jonathan Taylor (ankle), RB Jordan Wilkins (groin)