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Four unique strains of virus identified during recent Ravens’ outbreak

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh presided over a team that was identified as having had four different strains of the coronavirus during a recent outbreak.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh presided over a team that was identified as having had four different strains of the coronavirus during a recent outbreak.Don Wright/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens said Saturday at least four unique strains of the coronavirus were identified during the team’s outbreak and that “not everyone” in the organization “followed the protocol thoroughly.”

The Ravens’ acknowledgment of protocol violations could be a precursor to the NFL imposing disciplinary measures. The team’s outbreak led to postponements of their games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, plus a delay of the Steelers’ game against the Washington Football Team. The NFL declined to comment Saturday. A person familiar with the situation previously said the NFL had not ruled out disciplinary action.

“Despite our best efforts, the protocol is only as effective as our weakest link,” Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement released by the team. “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 Ravens previously announced they were disciplining a team employee for actions related to the coronavirus cases. According to multiple reports, strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders was punished for failing to report symptoms and not consistently wearing a tracking device. The team has not confirmed those reports.

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The NFL uses genomic sequencing to identify strains of the virus when a team has multiple cases. In Saturday’s statement, Cass said the league identified “at least four unique strains of COVID-19 in our facility” during the outbreak.

“Three of the four were stopped and not spread within our organization,” Cass said. “Unfortunately, the fourth was a highly contagious strain and spread throughout our organization.”

The outbreak in Baltimore was one of the biggest in professional sports.

At least one Ravens player tested positive for 10 straight days. Baltimore placed 23 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list during that span.

Cass said infected players, staffers and their family members “are receiving treatment and are being monitored to provide them with the best possible care, and we are hoping for a full recovery for all.”

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The Ravens’ game in Pittsburgh, originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night, was postponed three times by the NFL before it finally was played Wednesday afternoon. The Steelers won, 19-14, in the NFL’s second Wednesday game in 72 years. The Cowboys-Ravens game, scheduled for this past Thursday night, was pushed back to Tuesday. The Washington-Steelers game was delayed from Sunday to Monday.

“We cannot undo what has occurred,” Cass said. “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.”




Ex-Patriots RB Blount retires

LeGarrette Blount, who played three and a half seasons with the Patriots and was a part of the Super Bowl 49 and 51 champion teams, announced his retirement Saturday morning via Instagram, writing, “It is in the best interest of me and my family.” Blount played nine seasons in the NFL with the Buccaneers, Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Lions and won three Super Bowls.

Blount, who rushed for 6,306 yards and 56 touchdowns in his career. led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2016 (18), his final season with the Patriots. He picked up his second Super Bowl ring that year when the Patriots beat the Falcons in Super Bowl 51. Blount rushed 2,917 yards and 34 touchdowns during his tenure in New England.

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The Eagles signed Blount before the 2017 season and he got his third Super Bowl ring when the Eagles defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. He last played in 2018 for the Lions.

Titans ban top pick

The Tennessee Titans suspended top draft pick Isaiah Wilson for Sunday’s game for violating club rules after already declaring the rookie offensive tackle out against the Cleveland Browns. The Titans announced the move while elevating linebacker Tuzar Skipper as a COVID-19 replacement and offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse from the practice squad for the game. Both will revert back after the game. Tennessee didn’t specify what Wilson did in placing him on the reserve-suspended list. The No. 29 pick overall out of Georgia made his season debut last week, playing three offensive snaps and one on special teams even with the Titans having a pair of tackles on injured reserve . . .The Detroit Lions released receiver Marvin Hall and tight end Isaac Nauta and downgraded running back D’Andre Swift to doubtful for their game Sunday at Chicago due to an illness . . . The Seattle Seahawks placed Bryan Mone on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, ,making the injured defensive tackle the first Seattle player to land on the list during the regular season. Seattle also placed cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) on injured reserve. Flowers will not be able to return until Week 16 against the Los Angeles Rams . . . The Green Bay Packers placed center Corey Linsley on injured reserve after he injured his knee during a victory over the Chicago Bears last weekend. Linsley must sit out at least the next three games, ending his string of 68 consecutive regular-season starts . . . The Miami Dolphins activated running back Myles Gaskin (knee) activated off injured reserve and elevated safety Nate Holley as a COVID-19 replacement for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati . . . Vontaze Burfict, 30, a former NFL linebacker who in 2019 received the most severe punishment in league history for an on-field infraction, was arrested Saturday on a misdemeanor battery charge in Las Vegas and released on his own recognizance, according to court records … The New York Jets released veteran wide receiver Chris Hogan from injured reserve. The former Patriot caught 14 passes for 118 yards in five games, before suffering an ankle injury in Week 5.

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