There has been 30 players so far around the NFL who have opted out of playing in the 2020 season, including two with the Ravens.
As a Type-1 diabetic, tight end Mark Andrews considered the potential ramifications of playing football during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Diabetes Association warns that diabetics who are infected with the virus have a higher chance of experiencing serious complications.
However, Andrews never considered opting out of the 2020 season, and he continues to use his platform as a successful athlete to inspire others who have diabetes.
"I've had people tell me I won't be successful in football, I won't be able to do this or that because I'm a Type 1 diabetic," Andrews said. "I've always shown those people that they were wrong. Me being in the NFL, I can show these families, these kids that they can do it and give inspiration. With everything going on right now, it's one way I can be a good role model and show people that you live, but that you've got to protect yourself."
Andrews spent the entire offseason in the Phoenix area where he grew up, a region of the country where the coronavirus has spiked. Sharing a house with his brother that they purchased last year, Andrews turned some of his living area and garage into a place where he could work out while social distancing.
Andrews also discussed any health concerns that he had with his father, Paul, who is a urologist. When he was diagnosed with diabetes at age nine, Andrews refused to let that spoil his dreams. He is determined not to let a pandemic damper his enthusiasm.
"Being a Type 1 diabetic is not an easy thing to go through," Andrews said. "It's a 24-7 fight. Every day you have to think about it. The second you don't, that's when bad things happen. It takes a mental toll, but there's things you can learn from it. Stay strong. Don't let anybody tell you can't do something. That's my approach to this whole situation. We're living in a world that's going to be day to day. You have to keep a positive outlook. I can't change what I don't have control over. But I'm excited for this team and this season."
Andrews feels better than he has in a long time. He was nursing a foot injury during the latter part of last season, but he feels 100 percent healthy and refreshed. While missed offseason practices because of COVID-19 aren't ideal, it has left Andrews feeling good heading into training camp.
"This virus is something that shouldn't be taken lightly, it's nothing to play around with," Andrews said. "But I'm healthier than most people and I take really good care of my body. I feel confident going into this.
"Over these last months, it's been pretty much straight quarantine for me. I haven't been seeing people. When I go to the store and buy something, I've been wearing a mask. It's all about being smart, putting myself in good situations. I'm one of those people that doesn't mind being alone, but I'm excited to be back."
While other Ravens players met up in Florida to workout with Lamar Jackson, Andrews remained home. The two showed last year that they already have a very strong "street ball" chemistry.
After a strong rookie season, Andrews had a breakout year in 2019, making his first Pro Bowl with 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has clearly emerged as one of the best tight ends in football, and his role could expand this season after the Ravens traded tight end Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons.
It will be different for Andrews and Nick Boyle not to have Hurst in the tight end room, because the three players are close friends. Andrews and Hurst still talk regularly and playing "Call of Duty" is one of their favorite pastimes. Is Andrews better at "Call of Duty" than Hurst?
"Hands down, I'm better," Andrews said. "I work him over."
Andrews is a fierce competitor at whatever he does, but that never got in the way of his friendship with Hurst. They were drafted in 2018 and bonded from Day 1.
"He's just such a good dude," Andrews said. "Everyone kind of tried to pit us against each other, especially with him drafted in the first round and me in the third. I went to his house for Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving dinner, and his family welcomed me in when my family couldn't come because it was so far away. Nothing could pit us against each other. It's going to be different this year without him, for sure.
"As for my role, it has progressively grown, and I think that's the natural evolution of a tight end. It's not one of those positions where you start playing and you do everything right away. I look forward to an expanding role, and with Hayden being gone there's obviously more opportunities. I'm continuing to grow as a player. I'm not where I need to be yet."
The Ravens had seven players make the NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2020" that was voted on by the league's players. Jackson was voted the league's top player and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (86), defensive end Calais Campbell (79), safety Earl Thomas III (75), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (74), cornerback Marcus Peters (53), and running back Mark Ingram (44) also made the top 100.
However, Andrews' name wasn't listed, and he is driven to become a tight end who is never overlooked when discussing the best.
"I'm looking forward to getting better each practice and trying to become the best tight end in the NFL," Andrews said. "The ultimate goal is to help this team win the Super Bowl."