Glamour comes tagged to many aspects of life in the NFL, but Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen spent time over the past month conducting the same home workouts as the everyman. Crunches and pushups on the living room floor and jogs around the block are necessary when a team facility closes to players for precautionary reasons.
Queen doesn’t view the lack of access to a first-class weight room as the biggest challenge of coping with spurts of isolation during the NFL season, though.
Instead, on the two occasions he missed large chunks of practice time before a game, the first-round rookie said he was mostly concerned with how he’d feel after making his first tackle or taking on a blocker.
“The biggest part, for me, is not being able to practice,” Queen said. “Then going into the game, you’re in full contact and you hit somebody, it’s like your body goes into shock for not hitting for like a week or two.”
On the heels of one of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks in sports, Queen joined several teammates who made mention of the safety risks that arise when a team plays an NFL game after large breaks in practice time.
Queen, a first-round rookie, needed to quarantine for five days before the Ravens played the Colts on Nov. 8 because the NFL deemed him a high-risk contact of a person infected with COVID-19. He returned for one walkthrough practice and played in a win over Indy.
Then all of the Ravens stayed away from team headquarters for about six days last week as nearly 30 players and staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. After a shutdown to stop the spread, Baltimore held two what it called two “safely distanced” walkthroughs before losing to the Steelers on Wednesday.
Reports indicated that Ravens players urged the NFL to push back the scheduled start of the Pittsburgh game to give them time to practice. In all, the league postponed the matchup three times before green-lighting kickoff Wednesday.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III started in place of Lamar Jackson, who tested positive for the coronavirus a week earlier, and he indicated the team’s desires to delay the start of the game were related to health risks.
“It’s not about whether or not guys want to play,” Griffin said. “It’s about whether or not our safety is actually being taken into account. I can’t say much more than that.”
Griffin left the loss to the Steelers in the fourth quarter because of a pulled hamstring and is now on injured reserve, while a groin injury took cornerback Jimmy Smith out of the game in the first half. A day later, 11 Ravens appeared on a practice injury report.
“I pulled a hamstring today; I’ve never pulled a hamstring in my life,” Griffin said in his postgame press conference. “Jimmy, I think, pulled his groin or something. It just — you see guys going down left and right, and it’s the reason that there were a lot of precautions taken going into this game.”
As the NFL continues navigating a season during a pandemic, a slew of Ravens players have said protection against the virus should be the top priority. But the other risks associated with professional football remain. If games go on, players will find ways to condition and teams will take the field with limited preparation, as the Ravens did Wednesday against the Steelers.
“We didn’t practice,” Queen said, but “everybody came out at full speed, and had heart and grit, and just was determined to try to win that game.”
That was their task, physical concerns and all.
Aaron Kasinitz covers the Baltimore Ravens for PennLive and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AaronKazreports. Follow PennLive’s Ravens coverage on Facebook and YouTube.