The NFL experienced multiple Coronavirus outbreaks so far this season, but none might have been as wide-spread as the Baltimore Ravens’ in late November. Following a series of positive tests, two games had to be postponed while 18 players — including such cornerstones as quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and defensive lineman Calais Campbell — were sidelined.
At the center of all this was Baltimore strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders, who reportedly breached Coronavirus protocols by neither reporting symptoms nor wearing a mask or tracking device in the building. Saunders was later suspended by the organization, as it saw numerous players and other personnel get infected over a subsequent 10-day period.
Now, the NFL has fined the Ravens for violating protocols. However, that penalty was not a particularly harsh one: Baltimore was fined “just” $250,000 — a noticeably smaller penalty than the one imposed on other teams after similar Covid-19 outbreaks.
The Tennessee Titans were fined $350,000 earlier this year, for comparison, while the New Orleans Saints were stripped of a seventh-round draft pick and fined an additional $500,000 for violating protocols a second time — head coach Sean Payton and the team were fined $100,000 and $250,000, respectively, after a Week 2 loss in Las Vegas.
The Raiders, meanwhile, were stripped of a sixth-round selection and had to pay a $500,000 fine, with Jon Gruden being fined $150,000. The New England Patriots, meanwhile, also had to pay a $350,000 fine.
New England had its first positive test ahead of its Week 4 game in Kansas City, with quarterback Cam Newton being diagnosed and quickly isolated. The team’s game against the Chiefs was subsequently moved one day — a decision that did not prevent an outbreak given that the team had to send a total of eight players to the Coronavirus reserve list during the two weeks after Newton’s positive test on October 3.
Back then the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, praised the club for its handling of the situation.
“We actually had four days of testing — it was Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday — and we also took the additional step to review the video from inside the Patriots facility to look at the compliance with mask-wearing,” Dr. Sills said in the aftermath of Newton’s positive test. “What we found there was the compliance was very high. Cam Newton was wearing a mask, he was wearing his tracking device, and everyone around him was wearing a mask.”
Nevertheless, the NFL handed down a $350,000 fine against the Patriots — $100,000 more than the Ravens’. Those numbers themselves do not hurt either franchise, given that their annual revenues are in the hundreds of millions.
However, given all that we have learned about the different infractions one does have to wonder why the league decided to go easy on Baltimore compared to some of the other teams punished for apparently violating protocols.