The Ravens have been effectively managing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, producing Zoom calls with sports and national icons, keeping players physically fit, and now addressing the attendance issues for the upcoming regular season.
Baltimore became the first NFL franchise to set specific attendance guidelines for fans in 2020. The Green Bay Packers also gave season ticket holders the option to opt-in or-out for season tickets. Other teams will likely now follow suit using their own respective state guidelines.
The Ravens deemed stadium capacity would be fewer than 14,000 seats per game if fans are even allowed to attend by the NFL. That attendance figure is based on the social distancing guidelines and fan safety protocols developed by health experts, governmental officials, and the league.
In addition, season tickets for 2020 will be deferred to the 2021 season. For the season-ticket holders, credits for funds paid toward this season to date will be applied to accounts and can be used toward renewal for next season or toward future ticket purchases, or a refund can be requested.
“To offer a proper level of safety for fans who want to attend games, a reduction in capacity is necessary,” Ravens president Dick Cass said. “We are disappointed that this will be a disruption for many ticket buyers, but we have an obligation to our fans and our community to keep M&T Bank Stadium as safe as possible.”
There's no doubt the 2020 season will be surreal if it's played at all because of the ongoing coronavirus. The players have also been expressing some concern about playing amid this ongoing threat.
The owners and NFL Players Association officials still have not been able to agree on the frequency of testing for the virus and whether or how many games should be played in the preseason.
The Ravens have proceeded with their altered offseason plan in a mostly virtual environment. They have also gone to great lengths to keep the players engaged.
Coach John Harbaugh was able to enlist an all-star cast of guest speakers for a series called "Chasing Greatness" to inspire the team and talk about what it means to be successful.
Some of the speakers included NBA great Julius "Dr. J" Erving, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, national championship basketball coach John Calipari, former Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Super-Bowl champion DeMarcus Ware, among others.
Harbaugh remains confident the NFL season will proceed as planned.
“Nobody can predict the future. That’s in God’s hands," said Harbaugh, who wore a protective mask around his neck during a Zoom call. "It’s all to be determined. I’m confident that it’ll happen. I know I’m very hopeful. I’m praying for it. I want it to happen, and I think it will happen; I believe it will happen.
"I think we will have protocols in place, and the testing is the main thing – that seems to be the biggest piece and the most important piece right now to making sure that we don’t have a spread in the building, those kinds of things. But we’ll trust the higher powers on that one.”