It's Thursday night and the Baltimore Ravens were supposed to be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers right now. They are not.
That game was pushed back to Sunday afternoon due to an ongoing outbreak inside the Ravens organization -- a strength coach was disciplined for not following protocol and possibly spreading the virus throughout the team, which has now reached Lamar Jackson. And whether that Sunday game gets played is now a matter of public debate among two of the NFL's insider-est insiders.
Adam Schefter tweeted this at 8:17 p.m. ET on Thursday night:
Ravens players were told today by their HC John Harbaugh that, for everyone’s safety, they will not be allowed back in the training facility until Monday at the earliest, sources tell ESPN.
Ravens are scheduled to play Steelers on Sunday, so that game doesn’t seem possible.
Two minutes later, he followed with this:
Ravens are shutting their training facility until Monday at the earliest, per sources.
Mike Florio got ahold of someone supposedly higher on the totem pole than John Harbaugh, and 30 minutes later Florio tweeted this:
Per source, ESPN report that John Harbaugh has told players they will not return to facility until Monday is premature at best, incorrect at worst. Decisions have not yet been made.
Schefter saw that tweet and fired back five minutes later, citing Harbaugh himself:
Ravens’ HC John Harbaugh just confirmed to ESPN that he told the team tonight that players will not be allowed to go into the training facility until Monday at the earliest.
Florio then tweeted this seven minutes after Schefter's tweet:
Let’s try this another way. Per source, this isn’t Harbaugh’s call to make. Decisions have not yet been made.
Florio then expounded on his information in a post on Pro Football Talk:
There’s an increasing belief within the Baltimore organization that the game cannot proceed as scheduled. Whether it’s moved to Monday or Tuesday or it’s shifted to an eighteenth week or the Ravens forfeit (unlikely, but possible) isn’t known. Whether the game will proceed on Sunday won’t be determined, again, until Friday.... [U]ltimately, the league will decide whether the game proceeds. And, again, the league has not yet made a decision.
What we have here is a turf war over who has the authority to postpone an NFL game, playing out through a proxy war among NFL information merchants. Harbaugh told his players to stay home until at least Monday, which would make playing Sunday's game impossible. And apparently someone in the league office believes they have the power to force the Ravens back into the facility against their will to play Sunday as scheduled.
Keep in mind the Ravens are scheduled to play the Cowboys next Thursday, Dec. 3, so pushing the Steelers game to Tuesday would necessitate pushing that game back as well.
No formal decision has been made as of yet. Clearly, Harbaugh and the Ravens don't feel healthy enough to play at this time, but a final decision won't be made until Friday. What feels most likely is the NFL "decides" Friday to push the game back and both sides walk away feeling vindicated that their position was "right."
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.