For the second time this week, the N.F.L. has rescheduled the matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, moving it to Tuesday night from Sunday, after the coronavirus outbreak in the Ravens’ clubhouse spread further on Thursday, the original day of the game.
It will be the second N.F.L. game of this season to be held on a Tuesday night; the Titans beat the Bills on Oct. 13. Because the Ravens are now playing on Tuesday, their following game, scheduled for just two days later against the Dallas Cowboys, will now be played on Monday, Dec. 7, assuming the outbreak in Baltimore does not spread further.
The league shifted more than a dozen games in September and October, when many teams still had bye weeks remaining, which gave the schedule makers wiggle room in the 16-game season to accommodate postponements. If more games have to be postponed, the league may add an extra week to the 17-week regular season to allow for makeup games. The start of the playoffs would then be pushed back a week.
The Steelers and the Ravens were supposed to play on Thanksgiving night, but a rash of positive tests forced Baltimore to shut its practice facility on Monday and Tuesday, and the game was moved to Sunday afternoon. On Thanksgiving, though, Lamar Jackson, 23, the Ravens quarterback and the league’s reigning most valuable player, was among those who tested positive for the coronavirus as cases spread to more than a dozen players on the team, according to several media outlets.
Like other players and staff members who test positive, Jackson must isolate for 10 days, which means he will be unable to play on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the team announced that it had disciplined a staff member for “conduct surrounding” the cases that had affected the players and other team employees. The Ravens did not identify the staff member or elaborate on the nature of the misconduct.
It was not clear whether Jackson had shown any symptoms of the virus, which sidelined New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton earlier in the season.
Jackson played last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a home loss for the Ravens.
In contrast to some of the other major North American professional sports leagues, the N.F.L. opted not to use a so-called bubble model during the pandemic, with teams playing games in isolation at one or two locations. So far, more than 200 players and other team employees across the league have tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this month, the N.F.L. fined the Las Vegas Raiders $500,000 and their head coach, Jon Gruden, an additional $150,000 for repeated violations of the league’s coronavirus protocols. The league also docked the team a late-round draft pick. And earlier this season, the league fined several coaches for not wearing masks on the sidelines.
Now, the league is grappling with a worsening outbreak that could reverberate well beyond the Ravens.
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On Monday, Baltimore’s starting running back, Mark Ingram II, was one of three players added to the Ravens’ Covid-19 reserve list. On Wednesday, the team’s starting defensive tackle, Calais Campbell, was one of three more players added to the list.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers wide receiver, complained on Twitter about the rescheduling of the Thanksgiving night game against the Ravens and noted that it was the second time that Pittsburgh’s schedule had been changed this season. The Steelers are undefeated.
“First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their Covid situation together, now they take away our Thanksgiving prime time game for the same reason,” Smith-Schuster wrote on Twitter.
Now the Steelers will still play in prime time, only on a Tuesday night.