A lot of things have happened since we last saw the Baltimore Ravens play an NFL game on Nov. 22. Eighteen players on the team have tested positive for COVID-19; their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has been postponed twice, and today, just a few hours before they are scheduled to fly to Pittsburgh in order to finally play the Steelers on Tuesday night, they have been kicked out of their practice facility.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Ravens were allowed to hold a voluntary conditioning session on Sunday night; the call to cancel today’s practice was made after players and coaches had already gathered. If you want a good summary of the NFL’s handling of the coronavirus, you have it here: A team that had consistently produced positive tests for a week was allowed to gather in an enclosed space and lift weights together on Sunday, before they were hastily shooed out of their practice facility the very next morning, just hours before their flight to Pittsburgh, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
One can surmise that the NFL is concerned about the growing number of positives. Three more Ravens players—Matthew Judon, Willie Snead, and Mark Andrews—produced positive tests at some point during this past weekend, so the league probably wants to see if any more are confirmed today before it allows what remains of the Ravens roster to board a plane.
Two planes, actually. According to ESPN, the plan is to divide the players and staff between two separate aircraft so as to allow for more social distancing. Oh, and there’s also the weather to contend with. The Pittsburgh area is expected to get snow tomorrow, which is why the Ravens are so set on flying out tonight, so as to avoid any travel delays.
If this all seems like a big, stupid mess to you, that’s because it is. The remnants of a professional football team are currently waiting around (Are they milling around outside their facility? Driving around the block? Back in bed?) for the proper amount of negative tests to be returned—which won’t actually inform them that much about who does and does not have the virus at this current moment in time—so that they can board two separate planes and play a Tuesday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers without a significant number of their teammates.
Whether the game is played or ultimately cancelled is immaterial now. The NFL has already demonstrated that this season will not be ground to a halt by a raging pandemic, for any reason. A team being forced to play without a quarterback wasn’t enough to reverse course, nor has the league itself becoming an outbreak incubator. What difference will it make if a game is postponed for a third time, or played while one team has a third of its roster missing? The NFL will force everyone to keep trudging through the shit, because it doesn’t know how to do anything else.