Trace McSorley says he always prepares to start, but this might truly be the first time it matters when the Baltimore Ravens host the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday night.
A third-string quarterback as recently as Game 10, McSorley could be the best option when the Ravens (6-5) host the Cowboys (3-8)in a game pushed back two days due to Baltimore's recent COVID-19 issues.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson was one of 13 players on the team's COVID-19 list -- 12 active roster, one practice squad -- as of Friday afternoon, after four players were removed from the list. His availability remains uncertain, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to discuss it Friday.
Meanwhile, backup quarterback Robert Griffin III was placed on injured reserve due to the hamstring injury he sustained during Wednesday's 19-14 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So if Jackson isn't cleared, McSorley will be making his first NFL start at a time in which the Ravens have lost three straight games and four of their past five.
"As you can see, you never know what's going to happen," said McSorley, who finished up the loss to Pittsburgh after Griffin departed. "Obviously, I'm wishing the best for Lamar and his health and that he can get back as soon as he can. But we have to prepare just as we have been and be prepared for anything."
McSorley, a 2019 sixth-round pick out of Penn State, competed 2 of 6 passes for 77 yards against the Steelers, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.
If McSorley is pressed into starting duty, Tyler Huntley will be promoted from the practice squad to serve as the backup.
Regardless, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. isn't fretting over seeing McSorley in the huddle.
"Trace is somebody that since he's been here, he's come in with the mentality and poise to lead a team and lead an offense," Brown said. "I've always felt he was capable of coming in and playing at a high level."
The COVID-19 issues forcing the Ravens and Steelers to play on Wednesday presented an interesting viewing opportunity for the Cowboys. Players and coaches got together to watch an opponent in action that they were already preparing to play.
In the eyes of Dallas coach Mike McCarthy, that is just another example of an atypical 2020 season. The chaos includes this game being moved to a Tuesday with Dallas facing another road game in Cincinnati just five days later.
"I view it as the state of the times. Some people may be upset. It's totally something none of us can control," McCarthy said. "There are so many moving targets here because of the state the league is in. Our outlook is we have to be prepared to play on any day of the week moving forward. That is our mindset."
The Cowboys are just one game out in the mediocre NFC East but have dropped five of six games since quarterback Dak Prescott was lost with a season-ending ankle injury. Dallas lost 41-16 to the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving.
Protecting replacement Andy Dalton could be a chore against the Ravens (27 sacks) with tackles Zack Martin (calf) and Cam Erving (knee) sidelined. Martin, a six-time Pro Bowl selection at right guard, was injured against Washington in his second game since being moved to right tackle.
A major bright spot for the Cowboys has been the play of rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb, who has 53 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns.
Lamb wears No. 88, a uniform that once belonged to Ravens receiver Dez Bryant, who plays against his former team for the first time.
Bryant accumulated 531 receptions for 7,459 yards and a franchise-record 73 touchdowns in 116 games for Dallas from 2010-17. He has four catches for 28 yards in three games for the Ravens.
"Very prestigious number -- grateful to put that number on my back every Sunday and every day at practice," Lamb said. "... He definitely did a great job here, and I'm looking to continue the legacy with the jersey number."
--Field Level Media