The NFL is playing a game on a Wednesday for just the second time since 1949, between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, after a COVID-19 outbreak spread throughout the Ravens locker room.
The league had to do a juggling act to push for this game to be played as the rest of the league turns the page from Week 12 and looks ahead to Week 13. Wednesdays are typically the days when teams start their preparations in earnest for the following week's opponents. That's why, to preserve the 17-week regular season schedule, the NFL was so intent on having the game played as soon as possible.
Kickoff is set for 3:40 p.m. ET and NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy confirmed the game would be played just hours before it was set to begin.
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Here's what we know about how we got here.
Why on Wednesday?
Because of a COVID-19 outbreak that saw the Ravens have at least one player test positive for 10 consecutive days, this game resulted in three postponements.
The game was supposed to be aired as the marquee matchup of Thursday's Thanksgiving slate and the postponement led to only two of the three games that day being played.
After the Thursday postponement, the game was then initially pushed back to Sunday. But as the positive test results continued to hit Baltimore, it was then moved to Tuesday and then, eventually, to Wednesday.
Because both the Ravens and Steelers will need to switch their preparations for their respective Week 13 matchups immediately after the playing of their game, the league preferred to play it as soon as it was able.
"We postponed the game to ensure we had confidence that the virus was contained," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call with reporters. "Our medical experts believe they have sufficiently traced the virus, identified high-risk personnel and that we can now safely proceed with the game today."
An overhead look of M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, before their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo: Mitchell Layton, USA TODAY Sports)
And Why on Wednesday afternoon?
Since the game was originally scheduled to be broadcast Thursday night as part of NBC's Thanksgiving schedule, the network still holds the rights to the game. And although in an ideal scenario the network probably would've preferred the game to be aired in primetime, NBC was committed to airing the previously-scheduled "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. It's during this broadcast that the 88th Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony will be shown.
In conjunction with the NFL, the network settled on 3:40 p.m. ET for the game to be aired.
When was the last Wednesday game played?
Because then-President Barack Obama was set to address the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, the NFL pushed its season-opening matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants out of its regular Thursday night window. The league opted to move the game up one day and it was played Wednesday, Sept. 5.
The Cowboys toppled the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, 24-17.
Are any players out because of COVID-19?
Yes, quite a few of them.
For the Ravens, the virus has hit them at some of their most important offensive positions. Quarterback Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP, tested positive and will not play. The same goes for tight end Mark Andrews, who is a type 1 diabetic and one of Jackson's preferred targets.
Running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins are out after they did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Dobbins and Ingram have accounted for 1,187 of the Ravens' 1,605 rushing yards this season
For the Steelers, the notable names to be absent are center Maurkice Pouncey, running back James Conner and defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
So who will start for the Ravens instead?
Backup quarterback Robert Griffin III will start in place of Jackson and reserve running back Gus Edwards is expected to get the bulk of the carries for the Ravens, with Justice Hill likely backing him up.
Are players still testing positive?
The Ravens did not have any new positive point-of-care tests for COVID-19 in Wednesday's batch, according to multiple reports.
The Steelers, however, announced that center Maurkice Pouncey would be added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but did not specify whether it was because of a positive test or a high-risk close contact.
Did this affect next week's schedule?
The Steelers' Week 13 game against the Washington Football Team, which had been scheduled for Sunday, was pushed to Monday, with a kickoff set for 5 p.m. ET.
The Ravens' Week 13 game against the Cowboys, which had been scheduled for tomorrow, will now be played Tuesday, Dec. 8.
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