OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just when it looked like the Ravens roster was beginning to stabilize after a brutal month of injuries, the COVID-19 pandemic returned to the forefront two days before a Week 3 road meeting with Detroit.
After ESPN reported that outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson had tested positive for the virus, Baltimore placed him, nose tackle Brandon Williams, outside linebacker Justin Houston, and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike on the reserve-COVID-19 list Friday afternoon, leaving a struggling defense even more shorthanded for Sunday’s game against the Lions. None of those individuals took part in Friday’s practice, but head coach John Harbaugh spoke to reporters just over three hours prior to the moves officially being made.
“We haven’t put anybody on any COVID list at this point,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not allowed to comment on it past that.”
Vaccinated players aren’t subject to being deemed a high-risk close contact to someone testing positive, but a close-contact unvaccinated individual must isolate for a minimum of five days, which is the same protocol as last season. Unvaccinated players testing positive for the virus must miss a minimum of 10 days while an asymptomatic vaccinated player testing positive may return after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
Friday’s developments leave the Ravens light on the defensive line and at outside linebacker for Sunday’s game against the Lions. Making matters worse, defensive end Derek Wolfe was officially ruled out and will miss his third straight game with a back injury while edge defender Pernell McPhee missed Friday’s practice with a shoulder issue and was listed as questionable on the final injury report. The Ravens will likely elevate defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie and outside linebacker Chris Smith from the practice squad for more depth at these depleted position groups.
Inside linebacker Chris Board also missed Friday’s practice and was listed as questionable with a description of “other,” leaving one to wonder if there was some concern related to his status from a COVID standpoint. General manager Eric DeCosta will have until 4 p.m. Saturday to elevate replacements from the practice squad.
The Ravens enter Week 3 tied for 29th in the NFL in points allowed, last in passing yards allowed, and 25th in yards per pass attempt allowed. Asked how challenging the roster churn has made the defensive communication, second-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen downplayed its impact, citing how most players have been together for nearly two months since the start of training camp in Owings Mills in late July.
“I feel like it shouldn’t at this point because we’ve been here so long,” Queen said. “We’ve been here through camp, we’ve seen different guys in and out, so it just should be a point that we all should be comfortable now. We all should be able to talk — starting with me, starting with Chuck [Clark] — and just elevate through everybody else. We’ve all got to hold that standard up to each other.”
In more encouraging news for the defense, safety DeShon Elliott (concussion) returned to practice as a full participant on Friday, a good sign for his availability against Detroit. Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) and rookie outside linebacker Daelin Hayes were also upgraded to full participation, meaning they could be in line to make their 2021 season debuts. Those three as well as slot cornerback Tavon Young (knee) — who was upgraded to full participation on Friday — were officially listed as questionable on the final injury report.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson (illness) and wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) returned to the field after missing Thursday’s practice and are both expected to play despite carrying questionable designations. Jackson was a full participant on Friday, but Brown remained limited.
As expected, the Ravens officially ruled out left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), which means Alejandro Villanueva will make his second straight start at left tackle and Patrick Mekari will play right tackle against the Lions.
Detroit listed seven players as questionable to play on Sunday with that group headlined by outside linebacker Trey Flowers, who missed the entire practice week with shoulder and knee injuries. His absence would be a tough blow to the Lions’ efforts to try to slow Jackson and the league’s No. 1 rushing attack. Four other Lions starters were officially designated as questionable after being limited in practices this week.
Below is the final injury report for Week 3:
OUT: OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), DE Derek Wolfe (back/hip)
QUESTIONABLE: ILB Chris Board (other), WR Marquise Brown (ankle), S DeShon Elliott (concussion), OLB Daelin Hayes (knee), QB Lamar Jackson (illness), OLB Pernell McPhee (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), CB Tavon Young (knee)
OUT: ILB Jamie Collins (non-injury)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Michael Brockers (shoulder), OLB Trey Flowers (shoulder/knee), OLB Julian Okwara (neck), OLB Romeo Okwara (shoulder), WR Kalif Raymond (thigh), RB D’Andre Swift (groin), DE Kevin Strong (concussion)