The Baltimore Ravens have already lost Lamar Jackson, and now the team could lose their Week 12 game without ever setting foot on the field.
A new slate of positive COVID-19 tests for the Ravens has reportedly put the contest — already moved from Thanksgiving night to Sunday — in jeopardy. The team has suffered an outbreak among both players and staff, with reports late on Thursday indicating that the 2019 MVP and starting quarterback was among those who tested positive for COVID-19. He would be unable to play if the contest were to take place on Sunday, reports indicated.
As Steelers Wire reported, the NFL may be forced to call off the contest and give a loss to the Ravens.
“The NFL could force the Ravens to forfeit. This would give the Steelers a true bye week and extend their record to 11-0 while not being unnecessarily exposed in a game. This would be the least appealing to the NFL but they might not have another choice.”
However, the report noted that the league could have another choice that would appear more likely. The matchup could be moved out of Sunday and rescheduled for a yet-to-be-created Week 18. This is a contingency that has reportedly been discussed in case the need arose to make up contests that would have playoff implications.
If the league does end up having to cancel the matchup, there is widespread speculation that it would mean a forfeit for the Ravens. As ESPN reported, the Ravens have already disciplined an unnamed employee “for conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff at the Ravens.” The league could issue further measures as it has already done for others found to have violated protocol put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Roger Goodell issued this Oct 5. So I ask, if a team admittedly broke protocol forcing a game to potentially now be off, what else needs to happen to meet forfeit threshold? pic.twitter.com/Q3fK17Zpry
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) November 27, 2020
The NFL has taken great lengths to date not to cancel contests or force teams to forfeit. There were widespread rumors that they could force one or more losses on the Tennessee Titans after an outbreak among players and staff, but the NFL instead worked around its schedule and allowed them to play. This was done by postponing a game against Pittsburgh that resulted in replacing their scheduled bye with an unplanned and abbreviated one.
According to ESPN, many members of the Steelers expressed anger at the Thanksgiving contest having been moved, especially since the reshuffling of the schedule earlier in the season had already deprived them of a full and proper bye.