OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In a critical battle for first place in the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens are left with no choice but to start a quarterback signed 10 days ago.
Josh Johnson, a 35-year-old journeyman, will start Sunday’s game at the Cincinnati Bengals after Tyler Huntley tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to a source. The Ravens signed Johnson off the New York Jets‘ practice squad on Dec. 15.
Johnson, who hasn’t started a game in three years, is the de facto starter because he’s the only healthy quarterback on Baltimore’s roster. Lamar Jackson hasn’t practiced in two weeks after injuring his ankle in a 24-22 loss in Cleveland on Dec. 12. Chris Streveler, the Ravens’ practice squad quarterback, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday.
Jackson, who is listed as questionable, is not traveling with the team to Cincinnati, the Ravens announced. Punter Sam Koch is considered the Ravens’ emergency quarterback. Another option is re-signing Kenji Bahar, an undrafted rookie out of Monmouth who was last with the Ravens last month.
The Ravens are turning to Johnson at a time when all of their hopes for winning the AFC North are on the line. With a victory in Cincinnati, Baltimore would have a 67% chance of winning the AFC North, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. The Ravens’ chances of capturing the division plummet to 8.5% if they lose to the Bengals.
Since it was reported that Johnson would start, the Ravens have gone from a 3-point underdog to a 7.5-point one.
Johnson has a 1-7 career record as a starter. In his seven-year NFL career, he has completed 56.5% of his passes for 1,966 yards. Johnson has thrown 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for a 67.1 passer rating.
— Josh Johnson (@Head8cke) December 25, 2021
The Ravens were set to start Huntley for a second straight week. After becoming the first Ravens player to record multiple touchdown passes and touchdown runs in the same game, Huntley had taken the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. But Huntley sat out Friday’s practice with an illness and then tested positive a day later.
Huntley becomes the 18th player for Baltimore to test positive for COVID-19 over the last 12 days.
Asked Thursday about what he does to mitigate possible infection, Huntley said: “We’ve just got to continue to follow the protocols [as] best as ever now, continue to wear our masks and [stay] socially distant. The Ravens do a great job around here. They’ve added so many parts of the building for us to spread out and be on [virtual] meetings and just do what we’ve got to do at the building and be able to just still protect ourselves at the same time. So, I feel like the Ravens, the NFL, they’re going a good job, and it’s going to get better.”
One of the reasons cited by coach John Harbaugh for signing Johnson was the rising COVID-19 cases around the league.
This is only the second time that Baltimore has had to start three starting quarterbacks in the same season in coach John Harbaugh’s 14 seasons. In 2015, the Ravens started Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett as they finished 5-11, Harbaugh’s worst season in Baltimore.
Johnson has played a game under a Harbaugh previously. He quarterbacked at the University of San Diego from 2004 to 2006 when his coach was Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother.
The NFL Network first reported Huntley was being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.