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John Harbaugh Won't 'Run Scared' as NFL Prepares for Football

Head Coach John Harbaugh
Head Coach John Harbaugh

When the NFL released its first draft of the new league protocol for re-opening amidst COVID-19, Head Coach John Harbaugh was quoted far and wide as saying it would be "humanly impossible" to follow.

After participating in a conference call with the league and its health experts last week, Harbaugh still believes it will be difficult, but it's something that can be pulled off.

Harbaugh said he's "confident" that the necessary protocols and testing will be in place to have a season.

"I think everybody is going to do their best. It's a new world. You can look at it any way you want to look at it, but I'm not going to run for cover and I don't think the NFL is either," Harbaugh said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

"But they're going to try to be safe and secure, and safety is going to come first. The health of all of us involved and the fans is going to be a major priority. And we'll go from there. Nobody knows what's going to happen in the next six months. No human being knows that. So we'll just have to be very adaptable, flexible and smart about what we do, and that's what we're going to try to do."

As quarantines have been lifted across the country and coaches and some employees have returned to work, including in Baltimore, there have been recent reports of positive COVID-19 cases.

On Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that at least two Tampa Bay Buccaneers players tested positive for the virus. It was also reported that one Bucs coach tested positive and two other assistants were quarantined.

Earlier this month, it was reported that star Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and other players from the Cowboys and Texans tested positive.

That recent news has reignited questions about the viability of playing football amidst the pandemic.

The game of football is played in close quarters. Players can't line up six feet apart from each other on the line of scrimmage. A huddle can't include social distancing. A tackle requires touching. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't go on while trying to minimize the risk as much as possible.

"People are going to interact with one another. That's the nature of the sport and that's the nature of life. People are still interacting with one another in the world as well," Harbaugh said.

"I'm personally not one to run scared from a virus or anything else. I'm just not going to do it, personally, in my own life. Although I'll be smart and do what's asked and respect the protocols. We'll do everything we can to respect the protocols and more."

While the game itself can't accommodate distancing, teams will take as many precautions as possible in preparing to play the game. That will include widespread and frequent testing and distanced meetings, locker rooms, cafeterias, weight rooms and more.

The Ravens are at least ahead of most teams in that regard considering they finished their major expansion of the Under Armour Performance Center two years ago.

"We have probably the best building in the league," Harbaugh said. "We have plenty of space, a lot of meeting room space, we have a huge locker room, a huge weight room, lots of room to spread out into. We're going to be in as good of shape as any other team in the league with what we do."

Harbaugh said the Ravens have missed 13 on-field practices so far, and there are more to come. His focus is on getting the team ready to play for the season, and the coaching staff is currently taking a deep dive on the plan for getting the rookies up to speed.

It's a challenge for every team in the league, but Harbaugh believes the Ravens have done well considering the circumstances.

"I do think we'll put a really good team together and I expect us to go out there and play at the highest level and let the chips fall. We'll see where it takes us in the end," Harbaugh said.

"As far as comparing it to other seasons … obviously we're behind where we would have been. We would have been practicing, we would have seen the rookies, we would have a lot of tape to evaluate. We don't have that right now. So we're not walking the same way we are in other offseasons, but it's kind of a moot point."

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