Baltimore Ravens will be without star quarterback Lamar Jackson when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC North on Wednesday afternoon, who may play a major role in the playoffs.
The game was originally scheduled to kick off during the peak Thanksgiving Day season, but was postponed three times due to a coronavirus outbreak among the Ravens that affected at least a dozen players.
The NFL’s reigning MVP, Jackson, was confirmed positive on Thursday and, according to NFL COVID-19 protocols, must be isolated for ten days after being placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Friday. If Jackson continues to test negative during the 10-day window, he should be available to return on either Monday, December 7 or the following day.
The Ravens were scheduled to host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, December 3, but the game was moved to Tuesday, December 8, as the trip from Baltimore to Pittsburgh was postponed until Wednesday due to multiple postponements.
The NFL rescheduled the game from Thanksgiving Day to Sunday after news of the Ravens’ outbreak was made public, before postponing it again to Tuesday as Baltimore continued to report positive tests. However, the latter decision met with fierce resistance from the Ravens’ players, who complained that they did not have enough time to prepare, forcing the league to schedule the game for Wednesday afternoon.
Jackson’s absence in Pittsburgh means that the Ravens will be looking to substitute quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will only play for the second time in four years.
After spending the entire 2017 season as a free agent, Griffin joined the Ravens in 2018, but has since served as understudy for Joe Flacco and then Jackson. Griffin’s last start, by the way, was against the Steelers in week 17 of last season, when the Ravens defeated AFC northern rivals 28-10 at M&T Bank Stadium, ending the regular season with a 14-2 record.
Griffin, the 2012 NFL Draft’s second overall winner, scored just 11 of his 21 passes for 96 yards, zero touchdowns and a 50 yard interception on eight carriers.
While the Ravens had already punched the ticket to the playoffs at his last start and the Steelers were eliminated from the post-season race, Griffin faces a drastically different scenario on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh are at the top of the AFC North and are the only team still undefeated in the NFL with a 10-0 record, while Baltimore have slipped to third in the divisional standings after three losses in the last four games. A year after the Ravens achieved the NFL’s best regular season record, the Ravens are on the outside of the playoff rankings.
A quarterback with a double threat, not unlike Jackson, Griffin was named “Rookie of the Year” in his first season in the NFL, but his career has since been marred by injury and he has only played 55 games out of the 106 games he has led the NFL rankings.
During his first season in Washington, the former Baylor star suffered a right LCL sprain in December before tearing his right ACL, LCL and meniscus in the NFC Wild Card round against the Seattle Seahawks a month later.
He underwent surgery in the off-season and missed only seven weeks the following season after dislocating his left ankle in week 2 of his last year in Washington. In 2016, Griffin’s single season with the Cleveland Browns had a nightmare start when he broke his left shoulder in week 1 and did not return until 14.
In the meantime, the Ravens should have the running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram at their disposal after the duo have completed their 10-day quarantine and are eligible to be removed from the COVID 19 reserve list.
Nose Tackle Brandon Williams, third place quarterback Trace McSorley and injured cornerbacks Tavon Young and Khalil Dorsey have all been removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
However, the former will not play in Pittsburgh as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.