The reality of playing football in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic hit the Ravens on Monday as All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey announced he’s tested positive for COVID-19.
The 24-year-old revealed the news on his verified Twitter account shortly before the organization announced “a Ravens player” had tested positive early Monday morning and “immediately began to self-quarantine.” The Ravens are now in the NFL’s “intensive” protocol and will undoubtedly be waiting with bated breath for additional testing results over the next few days.
“I don’t know how he’s feeling. I learned of it this morning, first thing, at about 6 o’clock,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who confirmed Humphrey will miss Sunday’s game against Indianapolis. “The way the week will work is we will meet virtually, and we will practice normally.”
Humphrey played all 53 defensive snaps and five special-teams plays in Sunday’s 28-24 loss to Pittsburgh, finishing with four tackles. The Steelers announced all results from their Sunday morning testing came back negative, but the incubation period for the virus can be several days, making those pre-game testing results less notable. Though the NFL hasn’t seen evidence of on-field transmission to this point in the season, Humphrey potentially having prolonged close contact with Ravens teammates and coaches is an obvious concern.
“In coordination with the league, we have started the process of contact tracing and are following the guidelines of intensive protocol,” the Ravens said in a statement. “The health and safety of our players, staff, and community continue to be our highest priority. We will continue to work closely with the NFL and our team doctors and will follow their guidance.”
Humphrey is the third Ravens player to be placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list since late July. Rookie safety Nigel Warrior, currently on the practice squad, was placed on the list before the start of training camp while veteran nose tackle Brandon Williams missed the Week 6 win at Philadelphia after coming in close contact with an individual who had tested positive. Williams did not test positive for the virus himself and was activated from the list during the bye week.
It’s worth noting Humphrey was sent home from the Owings Mills training facility last Wednesday with an illness, but the fourth-year cornerback had tested negative every day until the Ravens received the results of his Sunday test early Monday morning. Critics have mentioned this next-day turnaround for testing results as problematic for this very game-day scenario in which an infected individual ends up playing against another team.
Under league protocols, an asymptomatic player can return 10 days after the initial positive test or five days after the initial positive test with the player receiving two straight negative PCR test results at least 24 hours apart within the five-day period. A symptomatic player can return after at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours after last experiencing symptoms.
Regarded by many as Baltimore’s best defensive player, Humphrey signed a five-year, $97.5 million contract extension last month to become the league’s second-highest paid cornerback.
Acknowledging Humphrey’s health and the containment of the virus being paramount to football implications, Monday’s announcement puts a secondary that’s already become uncomfortably thin in even worse shape. The Ravens have already lost cornerbacks Tavon Young and Iman Marshall to season-ending knee injuries while third-year corner Anthony Averett is expected to miss several more weeks with a shoulder injury.
In Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, elevated practice-squad cornerback Terrell Bonds saw the first defensive action of his NFL career, playing 17 snaps in the dime package. If Humphrey is forced to miss game action beginning with Sunday’s tilt at Indianapolis, the Ravens would be down to Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Bonds, and undrafted rookie Khalil Dorsey as their top four cornerbacks.
“We do have good depth back there, and it is being tested. Losing Tavon kind of brought us back a little bit, [and] now with Marlon,” Harbaugh said. “I thought [Bonds] did a good job. He played well. He made some tackles and flew around and did a good, solid job out there. That’s good to see, and Khalil Dorsey is another young guy who can play. I really feel confident with those guys.”