BALTIMORE — As the Ravens spoke Wednesday evening, it was as if they had all huddled around the campfire, toasted marshmallows and been brainwashed by an iconic scoutmaster.
One after another, they all carefully delivered praise to the organization for its leadership during one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in professional sports. No one was more flattering than coach John Harbaugh, who thanked virtually every individual in the NFL's front office as well as everyone connected with the Ravens, except mascot Poe.
Perhaps the Ravens are in a state of fear while awaiting possible heavy punishment from the league after 17 players were held out of Wednesday afternoon's 19-14 loss against the Pittsburgh because of COVID-19 concerns.
The Ravens (6-5) would like to move on because their next five games — against the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals — are winnable, and an unbeaten streak to end the season would most likely put them in the playoffs. But they can't escape the cloud that is hanging over the organization.
In recent months, the NFL has fined the Tennessee Titans $350,000 and the Las Vegas Raiders $500,000 and coach Jon Gruden $150,000, in addition to stripping the Raiders of a sixth-round draft pick, for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols.
The Ravens have already disciplined strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders for ignoring potential COVID-19 symptoms as he worked with players and not routinely wearing his mask and proximity tracker, which the NFL requires as part of its contact tracing efforts.
So, what does that mean for the Ravens? The price could be steep.
Their game against the Steelers had to be postponed three times. The league can't be happy about moving its fiercest rivalry from national television on Thanksgiving night and having to reschedule games for both teams and their next opponents. The Ravens had no star power Wednesday.
Absent from the roster because of COVID-19 concerns were nine starters, including seven who made the Pro Bowl last year. Among those was quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player.
It appears as if Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is going to have to write a check with a lot of zeros. It's no wonder that Harbaugh was wearing double masks for the first time on the sideline Wednesday and that the Ravens were behaving like altar boys after the game.