OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The coronavirus pandemic is still affecting the Baltimore Ravens. Star quarterback Lamar Jackson tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the team's first practice of training camp.
Coach John Harbaugh announced Jackson's positive test after practice Wednesday and said running back Gus Edwards also tested positive. He would not go into much more detail about either case or say how long Jackson or Edwards would be out.
“It's just part of the deal. It's just the way the world is right now,” Harbaugh said. “We have 90% vaccinated, and I think we're going to go above that, too, real soon here. So we're in really great shape with the vaccinations.”
Jackson missed one game last season, in Week 12, when he also tested positive for the novel coronavirus. That game at Pittsburgh — originally scheduled for Thanksgiving — was postponed three times before it was finally played on a Wednesday in December. The Ravens didn't practice for over a week, and their number of players on the reserve/COVID-19 list grew to more than 20. They lost that game to the Steelers, then won five in a row to end the regular season.
“You can obviously get COVID and then get it again,” Harbaugh said. “That's kind of been demonstrated.”
Harbaugh said Jackson tested negative until Tuesday.
Jackson, who won MVP honors in 2019, is entering his fourth season with Baltimore. He threw for 2,757 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. He's also rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.
Baltimore won a playoff game with Jackson for the first time last season, but the Ravens were then eliminated at Buffalo.
Edwards signed a contract extension through 2023 this offseason. He ran for 723 yards last season, helping the Ravens rank first in the NFL in rushing for a second consecutive year.
There's been talk this offseason that Jackson, along with fellow 2018 draftees Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, could be due for a big new contract. Jackson isn't due to become an unrestricted free agent until 2023, however. So there may not be an urgency to finish an extension.
A more pressing concern is the time he could miss at a crucial training camp. For all of Jackson's ability, the Ravens finished dead last in 2020 in yards passing per game. Baltimore added more receiving talent in the offseason, acquiring Sammy Watkins and drafting Rashod Bateman in the first round.
Now the Ravens are without a couple key offensive players.
“I trust every man in the building to take care of one another, so when hiccups like this happen, all we can do is rally around that guy,” receiver Marquise Brown said. “Send our prayers, send our support, and hopefully he'll be back very soon.”
Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley combined to throw 15 passes last season for the Ravens.
“It's only going to bolster those two guys and make those guys stronger than they would have been otherwise,” Harbaugh said. “That helps our team.”
There were fans in attendance Wednesday, and Harbaugh's post-practice session with reporters took place in person next to the field. That itself was a sign that 2021 is different from last season, when video conferences were the norm throughout sports.
“We had a tough year. It's so awesome to be through that — to a pretty good degree," Harbaugh said. "Not completely, but here we are at least. We're standing on the patio and we're talking about training camp practice.”
As long as his starting quarterback remains out, however, it's a reminder that COVID-19 can loom over a team's prospects for the upcoming season.
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