NFL Network reported the reigning NFL MVP was one of the four Ravens players to have tested positive in the latest round of tests on Thursday, marking the fifth consecutive day the organization reported a positive test.
A staff member also returned a positive test and the Ravens closed their facility, with ESPN reporting head coach John Harbaugh told the players they would not be allowed back until Monday.
Baltimore will officially add Jackson to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, with the star quarterback joining defensive ends Calais Campbell and Jihad Ward, running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, nose tackle Brandon Williams, offensive lineman Matt Skura, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and center Patrick Mekari.
Ingram and Dobbins tested positive on Sunday night after the Ravens’ lost 30-24 in overtime at home to the Tennessee Titans, while Mekari tested positive on Wednesday. Jackson had close contacts with the trio, taking snaps from Mekari during the game and his locker at M&T Stadium is close to those of Ingram and Dobbins.
The Ravens were scheduled to play on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving Day, but the outbreak forced the NFL to postpone the game from Thursday night to 1:15 p.m. ET on Sunday. At the time of writing, the game was scheduled to be played as expected, but the NFL indicated it will continue to monitor developments.
The game could have huge implications for the playoffs race, with Pittsburgh currently top of the AFC North at 10-0, followed by the Cleveland Browns at 7-3. At 6-4, the Ravens have already lost twice as many games as they did in the whole of last season and are currently outside the playoff spots in the AFC.
The matchup between the two AFC North rivals will pit Baltimore’s rushing attack—the top-ranked in the NFL—against a Steelers defense that ranks first in the league in points allowed, takeaways and sacks.
Baltimore’s depleted roster, however, makes the assignment prohibitive. To put the impact of Jackson, Dobbins and Ingram’s absence into context, the trio have rushed for a combined 1,187 of the 1,605 yards the Ravens as a whole have racked up so far this season.
Baltimore’s season has looked perilously close to derailing in recent weeks, with the Ravens losing three of their last four games and looking far from the team that finished last season with a league-best 14-2 record.
The Ravens’ free-flowing offense has looked laborious this season, an issue that has been mirrored by Jackson’s statistical decline.
The 23-year-old threw for 3,127 yards and a league-best 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions last season, setting a NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,206. Jackson has thrown for 1,948 yards, 15 touchdowns and has already thrown as many interceptions as he did in the whole of the 2019 campaign. With six games left in the regular season, Jackson has rushed for just 575 yards, less than a half of his tally from a year ago, while his quarterback rating has dropped from an NFL-best 83 to 62.5.
As per NFL coronavirus protocols, Jackson will now have to isolate for 10 days, meaning back-up quarterback Robert Griffin III will start on Sunday against Pittsburgh if the game goes ahead and next week when the Ravens host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football.
The second overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, Griffin has started just one game over the last four seasons, during which he’s served as the backup to Joe Flacco and then Jackson.
Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rob Carr/Getty