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The Ravens' offseason program is over, but the NFL's 'dead period' can still shape the season ahead

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

BALTIMORE -- After two months of webcam workouts, virtual learning and socially distanced team meetings, the Ravens' offseason program is over. Now comes a so-called dead period that could be teeming with news.

By July 28, when training camp is scheduled to open in Owings Mills, the Ravens should have some clarity on the future of their offseason's biggest investment, as well as some of their newest faces. They might also have some uncertainty over how to proceed in a league -- and with a roster -- diminished by a pandemic.

As the Ravens step back from football for a few weeks, forces inside and outside the Under Armour Performance Center will continue to shape their season. Here are four key questions to follow in the lead-up to training camp.

Can the Ravens stay healthy in a pandemic?

Players have nearly four weeks to relax, recover and rejoice in having no more teamwide Zoom calls. But Ravens coaches and officials, wary of the coronavirus, no doubt left the team with a stern warning: Be safe.

While COVID-19 infections tend to be less severe for young people, the specter of the virus continues to hang over pro sports. The NBA and its players' union agreed to resume play this season only after settling on a 113-page protocol for health and safety measures. Two Washington Nationals veterans opted out of baseball's 2020 season Monday because of family concerns. Fans have been barred from attending competitions in almost every sport across the globe.

 

In the NFL, Denver Broncos edge rusher Von Miller, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton have all contracted the virus. Even with the league's commitment to enforcing social distancing in team facilities and testing players for COVID-19, it will be hard to keep everyone safe. Especially when players and coaches are away from the facility.

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN last month. "If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

Several Ravens standouts, including NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson, live in coronavirus hot spots like Florida and Texas. Tight end Mark Andrews, who has Type 1 diabetes, could be especially at risk. The team has no known COVID-19 cases, but ESPN reported last week that about 10 other teams have had at least one player test positive.

As training camp nears, the league's hope is that those numbers don't surge. The NFL needs not only its stars healthy, but its rank and file, too. Jackson could miss a week of August practices and return with his 2020 ambitions unchecked. An undrafted rookie on the roster bubble wouldn't have that safety net.

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