The Ravens were dealing with bad news before departing for Philadelphia on Saturday as nose tackle Brandon Williams was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list.
Soon after the organization’s announcement, NFL Network reported Williams, 31, had come in close contact with an infected person and hadn’t tested positive himself. The list was created this season for any player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or has been in close contact with an infected individual. Under protocols established by the NFL and the NFLPA, Williams will be required to isolate for at least five days even without a positive test.
The Ravens still traveled by bus to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon with their 1 p.m. Sunday game against the Eagles still on as scheduled.
Williams hadn’t practiced since Wednesday, but since he typically receives a veteran day off on Thursday, concern about his absence only arose on Friday when head coach John Harbaugh explained the veteran had “a personal excused absence.” No Baltimore played had been placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list since undrafted rookie safety Nigel Warrior at the start of training camp in late July.
With defensive end Derek Wolfe (neck/concussion) also expected to be out for Week 6, the Ravens will now be without two of their top three defensive linemen. The presence of five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and an injury-ravaged Philadelphia offensive line should ease concerns for Sunday, but it’s no secret the Ravens have really struggled to stop the run in games without Williams in recent years, including their Week 4 loss to Cleveland last year when the Browns ran for nearly 200 yards. Of course, Baltimore still had nose tackle Michael Pierce in those six games missed by Williams dating back to 2017.
The Ravens will now depend on the likes of veteran Justin Ellis and rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington to step up in the rotation. The Eagles are averaging 108.0 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry with second-year running back Miles Sanders and his 5.1 yards per rush leading the way. Philadelphia will have only one original member of its projected 2020 offensive line — center Jason Kelce — for Sunday’s game. Three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson was ruled out with an ankle injury on Friday.
Baltimore entered Week 6 ranked fifth in the NFL in both rushing yards allowed per game (92.0) and yards per carry allowed (3.7).
To take Williams’ place on the 53-man roster, the Ravens elevated safety Marcus Gilchrist from the practice squad. Gilchrist played 20 defensive snaps in sub packages against Cincinnati last Sunday.
Rookie inside linebacker Kristian Welch was also elevated from the practice squad for Week 6. He is expected to assume the special teams responsibilities of inside linebacker Otaro Alaka, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Bengals.