OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A highly anticipated Ravens training camp opened with a thud with star quarterback Lamar Jackson testing positive for COVID-19.
Head coach John Harbaugh announced the news after Wednesday’s first full-squad practice that did not feature the 2019 NFL MVP, leaving reserves Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley to take the quarterback reps as hundreds of Ravens fans were in attendance at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills. This marks the second time that Jackson has tested positive for the virus in the last eight months and may require him to miss 10 days, which is the NFL’s required isolation period for an infected player who isn’t vaccinated. Harbaugh also confirmed that running back Gus Edwards had tested positive for COVID-19, explaining his absence from Wednesday’s workout.
“It’s just part of the deal. It’s just the way the world is right now,” Harbaugh said. “We have 90% [of players] vaccinated, and I think we’re going to go above that too here real soon. We’re in really great shape with the vaccinations, so that’s where we’re at.”
In mid-June, Jackson declined to say whether he’d been vaccinated and called it a personal decision for players “keeping that to themselves,” but Harbaugh said the 24-year-old had reported to Owings Mills last week and tested negative multiple times leading up to Tuesday’s positive result. Fully vaccinated players are tested only once every 14 days while the unvaccinated are tested daily, according to the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
Jackson’s absence will afford Harbaugh and his coaching staff an expanded opportunity to evaluate McSorley and Huntley in the competition for the primary backup job, but the Ravens are trying to improve a passing game that fell to 18th in yards per passing attempt and 17th in Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric last season. After leading the NFL in touchdown passes (36) and averaging 7.8 yards per passing attempt in his historic 2019 campaign, Jackson threw 26 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt last season to lead Baltimore to the postseason for a third straight year.
The Ravens also need Jackson to continue building chemistry with veteran newcomer Sammy Watkins and rookies Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace at the wide receiver position.
“Of course, having the reps with him means a lot,” said wide receiver Marquise Brown, a close friend of Jackson. “But for us as receivers, if we’re out here working and we’re wide open, he’s just got to come back and get us the ball. While he’s out, we’ve got to do the best we can to make sure we’re better for him.”
Baltimore plays its first preseason game against New Orleans on Aug. 14.
In addition to Jackson and Edwards, the Ravens were practicing without left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), tight ends Nick Boyle (knee) and Jake Breeland (knee), inside linebacker Otaro Alaka (knee), offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James (Achilles tendon), and cornerbacks Iman Marshall (knee) and Anthony Averett on Wednesday. Harbaugh said Averett had yet to pass the required conditioning test upon reporting to camp, explaining his absence from practice.
Cornerback Tavon Young (knee) and fullback Patrick Ricard (hip) were participating after missing extensive time in the spring while rehabbing.
The Ravens re-signed former Calvert Hall product Kenji Bahar to their 90-man roster to give them a third available quarterback behind McSorley and Huntley. Bahar was previously with the organization in the spring.