Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron
December 9, 2012
The Ravens have reached their breaking point when it comes to critical injuries.
After using words such as "disappointed" and "disheartened" to describe his team's 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, Ravens coach John Harbaugh glanced down at a piece of paper and started running through a laundry list of injuries -- some minor, others unknown. Linebacker Jameel McClain. Running back Ray Rice. Fullback Vonta Leach. And finally, and most significantly, right guard Marshal Yanda. Now, Harbaugh might not be fooling this week if he lists 15 of his players on the injury report.
To recap, the Ravens have lost their best defender and the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, to torn muscles not once, but twice this season. Their top cornerback, Lardarius Webb, who was becoming one of the NFL's best at his position, is out for the season with a torn ACL. They have also replaced his replacement, Jimmy Smith, a 2011 first-round pick who needed sports hernia surgery. They lost Ray Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker, to a torn triceps in Week 6, and then his fill-in, Dannell Ellerbe, who had actually been playing better than Lewis. Oh, and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been a shell of himself for most of the season because of nagging knee and shoulder injuries.
The Ravens have not used injuries as excuses, and a number of replacements have stepped up to fill some of the voids, which is why the Ravens are still 9-4 and in first place in the AFC North. But the mounting injuries have put their depth to the test, and they might not be able to withstand another big one down the stretch. McClain, who left the game with a neck injury, is a solid starter, but Lewis is on track and eligible to return as soon as this weekend. No disrespect to McClain, but losing Yanda, whom Harbaugh said has a sprained right ankle, would be potentially devastating. The Pro Bowl right guard was helped off the field in overtime and into the locker room for X-rays. After most of his teammates had vacated the cramped and cranky visitors' locker room at FedEx Field, he hobbled in on crutches. All I know is that if Yanda, one of the meanest men on the roster, is on crutches, he probably suffered an injury that would have left me in a full-body cast. He was able to put weight on his wonky right ankle in the locker room, which is a positive sign, but we will find out more at Harbaugh's Monday news conference. If Yanda is out Sunday against the red-hot Denver Broncos or for a more extended period, the Ravens will keep limping toward the playoffs. But they may soon collapse under the weight of all the casts, crutches and medical tape.