The Ravens didn’t have to wait until Saturday for one of their seven “close contact” players to be activated from the reserve-COVID-19 list to play against Indianapolis in Week 9.
On Thursday, outside linebacker Matthew Judon was reinstated to the 53-man roster and was a full participant in practice, an indication that his “high risk” close contact with cornerback Marlon Humphrey came late last week. A player given that designation can be activated after five consecutive days of testing negative for the virus and not experiencing symptoms.
Judon was ejected in the second quarter of last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh for making contact with an official in the midst of a sideline skirmish, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will be glad to have the 2019 Pro Bowl edge defender against the Colts. Of course, the Ravens hope to welcome back fellow linebackers Patrick Queen, L.J. Fort, Tyus Bowser and Malik Harrison, safety DeShon Elliott, and cornerback Terrell Bonds, who were also placed on the COVID-19 list earlier this week.
That group isolating away from the team has tested Baltimore’s ability to prepare, but Martindale said an offseason program being restricted to virtual meetings served as a good primer for this unusual week and unusual 2020 season.
“The spring prepared us for this. It’s a new way for peer tutoring, if you will,” Martindale said. “They’re helping each other out. We’ve been having Zoom meetings with the guys that haven’t been there. Our coaches, the assistants … have done a great job of working with the guys who haven’t been there.”
With Humphrey out and Bonds’ status remaining in question, the Ravens are down to just three cornerbacks — veterans Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith as well as undrafted rookie Khalil Dorsey — who were active for Week 8. Couple that with Elliott’s availability being up in the air, and a once-deep secondary is too thin for comfort against veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis passing game.
That makes the acquisition of pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue that much more critical as the University of Maryland product made his Ravens debut against the Steelers, finishing with one tackle in 34 defensive snaps. Martindale was pleased with how quickly the 25-year-old Ngakoue learned the defensive system and was able to make an on-field impact last week.
“We already talked about how Ben [Roethlisberger] got the ball out quickly, but [Ngakoue] won a lot of rushes,” Martindale said. “I thought he was pretty disruptive all day, but the best is yet to come with him. He gives us a lot of options.”
It appears likely that veteran running back Mark Ingram will miss his second straight game with a high ankle sprain sustained against Philadelphia on Oct. 18. The 30-year-old hasn’t been able to practice since then, but rookie J.K. Dobbins led Baltimore’s season-high 265-yard rushing day with a career-best 113 yards against the Steelers.
Third-year running back Gus Edwards also ran for a stout 87 yards on 16 carries, but Dobbins has generated the most buzz this week with many clamoring for the second-round pick from Ohio State to receive even more touches than the 16 he saw against Pittsburgh.
“His role will evolve as the year goes on. That’s not to say our other backs won’t be heavily involved as well,” said offensive coordinator Greg Roman about Dobbins. “But I thought those guys did a really nice job of complimenting each other last week, and we were able to stay fresh. Those guys ran the ball really effectively against a really good defense.”
After making his season debut last Sunday, veteran wide receiver and special-teams standout Chris Moore missed Thursday’s practice with a thigh injury.
For Indianapolis, four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin) and tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee) missed their second straight practice, but four others sat out for precautionary reasons after a Colts staffer tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. According to an NFL Network report, two-time Pro Bowl left guard Quenton Nelson, defensive tackles Sheldon Day and Tyquan Lewis, and wide receiver Michael Pittman were close contacts without being deemed “high risk,” meaning they could return to the team facility on Friday.
Below is Thursday’s full injury report, which doesn’t include players on the reserve-COVID-19 list:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mark Ingram (ankle), WR Chris Moore (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Mo Alie-Cox (knee), DT Sheldon Day (non-injury), WR Ashton Dulin (knee), WR T.Y. Hilton (groin), WR Marcus Johnson (knee), DT/ DE Tyquan Lewis (non-injury), G/C Quenton Nelson (non-injury), WR Michael Pittman Jr. (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: C Ryan Kelly (knee), RB Jonathan Taylor (ankle), RB Jordan Wilkins (groin)