If there’s one thing fans around the NFL know it’s that expecting anything specific from the league office is not a very wise bet. While sometimes appearing to be the ultimate authority, the NFL has also caved and cowered in other situations. And over the course of the last few days, they’ve gone back and forth in both directions.
First, when the league rescheduled the Steelers versus Ravens game to Sunday afternoon on NBC, the NFL office allowed one of the organizations to basically force their hand into making a change. When Ravens head coach John Harbaugh decided to close Baltimore‘s facility until Monday, he was basically telling the league they were not going to play on Sunday. While the game being played Sunday would not have been the right call from a health standpoint, it appears the decision was made more because John Harbaugh told the NFL what to do and they listened. He acted like a spoiled brat and they gave him exactly what he wanted.
Over the weekend, the NFL decided it was going to show they really were the boss and what they say is ultimately all that matters. When quarterback Jeff Driscoll of the Denver Broncos ended up on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, the entire quarterback room ended up going on the list as close contacts because players had an unauthorized meeting at the facility and did not wear masks. Ultimately, Denver got what they deserved by not being able to have a quarterback to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The rules were clear, and a group of players completely dismissed them.
The NFL showed that what they say is what teams have to live with. Denver played the game, and that was that.
But what does the league do on Monday? They turn around and completely bow to the wishes of one organization who threatened to take their ball and stay at home.
The NFL medical personnel deemed the outbreak in Baltimore contained on Monday. The team was cleared to travel safely on Monday and play the Tuesday night game. The league even gave them the option to travel on Tuesday. But even though it was safe for the players, the Ravens threatened to not show up and force the league to take action.
If the NFL was truly a strong as what they try to make themselves, Baltimore should have been forced to show up and play on Tuesday or suffer severe consequences.
If it was truly an issue of health and safety, the Ravens would have a legitimate concern. But the most dangerous thing this team could do is meet together. And guess what? They met together. It wouldn’t be more dangerous traveling to Pittsburgh, especially since they were taking two planes. And it wouldn’t be any more dangerous playing the Steelers then it would have been simply being together at their facility. It had nothing to do with COVID-19. It had everything to do with not being prepared to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Ravens are arguing that it wasn’t safe for them to play a game without practice. Didn’t the Tennessee Titans play a game without practice earlier in the season? Was it really safe for Kendall Hinton to have to play quarterback for the Denver Broncos on Sunday with zero practice? Yet the Ravens get what they want. They once again started to cry and threaten to keep their ball and the NFL, in the ultimate sign of weakness, coddled to their every need.
I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing, the actions of the Ravens or that of the NFL main office.
I’m all for safety. I’m all for taking care of what teams need to have to do in this global pandemic. But moving the game from Tuesday is not what this was about.
I really don’t know how else to conclude this piece, so I’m simply going to ask a question which was raised in our Special Edition Steelers Preview podcast Monday night: Would Ray Lewis and Ed Reed threaten to not show up to a game?
I don’t think so. But this isn’t teams of Ravens past with Lewis and Reed who would have shown up in the parking lot if it meant they had a chance to take on the Steelers. And as for the NFL office, they decided to treat this franchise like a spoiled baby brother who always gets whatever he wants.