A difficult stretch for the struggling Ravens keeps getting worse as veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was the latest player to be placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list.
The news came Tuesday morning, which canceled practice and forced John Harbaugh’s team to switch back to all-virtual work just two days before the AFC North tilt at Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night. The Ravens had reopened their Owings Mills training facility on Monday afternoon and conducted a walk-through after running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins learned they’d tested positive for COVID-19 late Sunday night and defensive tackle Brandon Williams was deemed a “high-risk” close contact.
The decision to return to the building so quickly looks even more dubious now with multiple reports of there being positive tests for additional players and members of the organization beyond just McPhee.
“They went through the contact tracing — the normal procedure that they do — and we’re working now,” Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. “We were working virtually this morning while it was not open. They did their process. The NFL and the people worked really hard at that. They did a great job. They just followed all the trails of everything they had to do, and we’re back. We’re meeting and working today getting ready for the Steelers.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the NFL said Thursday’s game was still on as scheduled, but you’d have to think additional positive tests on Wednesday could force the league to reschedule the nationally-televised game since the Ravens are scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh that afternoon.
The Ravens currently have six players on the reserve-COVID-19 list, a list including McPhee, Ingram, Dobbins, Williams, quarterback Trace McSorley, and cornerback Iman Marshall. McSorley was placed on the list last Friday while Marshall — who’s been on season-ending injured reserve since August — tested positive for the virus on Nov. 12.
The league hasn’t rescheduled a game since Week 7 when it moved the Tampa Bay-Las Vegas game out of the Sunday Night Football time slot.
“We will continue to monitor developments in consultation with our medical experts,” a league official said. “Our foremost concern is the health and safety of players, coaches, and game day personnel. There’s no change to the status of the game.”
With Williams already out and Campbell still not practicing due to the left calf injury sustained in the Week 9 win at Indianapolis, the Ravens losing McPhee is another tough blow to a defense that’s allowed 173 rushing yards in each of its last two games, both losses. McPhee’s absence will likely mean the activation of outside linebacker Jihad Ward, who’s been a healthy scratch in each of the last four games since the acquisition of edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue during the bye week.
In 10 games this season, the 31-year-old McPhee has 25 tackles, two sacks, and 11 quarterback hits.
The Ravens didn’t practice on Tuesday, but they released an estimated injury report that raised additional concerns. Defensive end Derek Wolfe was listed as a non-participant due to an illness while center Patrick Mekari didn’t practice for a non-injury reason, which led to more speculation about their availability.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) was estimated to be a non-participant for a second straight day after he returned to action against Tennessee and played 26 defensive snaps on Sunday. The 32-year-old defensive back missed the Week 10 loss at New England.
Baltimore protected defensive tackle Aaron Crawford, tight ends Sean Culkin and Eric Tomlinson, and quarterback Tyler Huntley on its practice squad for Week 12.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (knee) was listed as a non-participant for the second straight day.
Below is Tuesday’s injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Calais Campbell (calf), C Patrick Mekari (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), DE Derek Wolfe (illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Mark Andrews (thigh), OLB Matthew Judon (ankle), G Tyre Phillips (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G David DeCastro (non-injury), RB Trey Edmunds (hamstring), CB Joe Haden (knee), C Maurkice Pouncey (non-injury), RB Jaylen Samuels (quadriceps)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DT Cameron Heyward (non-injury/ankle), QB Ben Roethlisberger (non-injury/quadriceps), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Jayrone Elliott (illness)