BALTIMORE — In a statement released Saturday, Ravens president Dick Cass said that "at least four unique strains of COVID-19" entered the team's facility and three were stopped before spreading, but a fourth "was a highly-contagious strain and spread throughout our organization," resulting in its recent coronavirus outbreak.
The outbreak infected players, coaches and staff on the team, along with several of their family members. Twenty-three players were placed on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list, made for players who are infected with the virus or exposed, forcing the team to take an undermanned squad to their thrice-postponed game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday afternoon, a 19-14 loss.
"From the outset, we have taken the virus seriously, very seriously," the statement said. "The NFL, NFLPA and their medical experts developed a protocol with the health and safety of every organization in mind. Throughout the season, the NFL has updated the protocol to reflect new knowledge about the coronavirus and its spread. We believe in the protocol and made every effort to adhere to it. We strive not only to 'play like a Raven' but also to 'comply like a Raven.'
"Despite our best efforts, the protocol is only as effective as our weakest link," the statement continued. "With a dangerous virus like this, everyone must comply with the protocol to avoid infecting many. We now know that not everyone at the Ravens followed the protocol thoroughly."
The team's statement did not make mention of who in the organization did not follow the protocol. However, the team on Nov. 25 announced it had disciplined a staff member for conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff. Multiple sources said that head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders was the staff member punished and that he had not routinely worn the proximity tracker required by the NFL for contact tracing or reported potential COVID-19 symptoms as he worked with players.
"We cannot undo what has occurred. But, we can do our best to learn from what has happened and be vigilant moving forward to ensure that it does not happen again," the statement said. "As the recent experience has shown us, this virus does not need a large opening to spread within an organization, and 99 percent compliance is not a passing grade when dealing with this virus.
"To our community, our neighbors, our fans and families, we say: Please learn from what happened here. This virus is serious. Very serious. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Let's beat this virus together."(c)2020 The Baltimore Sun Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC