There has been a bunch of news stories and comments about the injuries that the Ravens have suffered lately, most coming out of the war with the Titans last weekend. However, injuries are old news to the Ravens as the rallying cry has always been "next man up!" in the locker room. The Ravens have had a ton of injuries this season, losing perhaps as many starters to the Injured Reserve List as any team in the NFL. Even before this past weekend's game, they had already lost their starting RG (Marshall Yanda), DT (Kelly Gregg), CB (Chris McAlister) and SS (Dawan Landry) for the season, not to mention all three starting OT's (Gaither, Terry, Anderson) and both CB's (Rolle, Washington) for some time this season. Their replacements have played superbly in their absences and now that the situation once again rears its ugly head, the Ravens plan on being ready without excuses for the Steelers game this Sunday.
Terrell Suggs and Samari Rolle's injuries look to be the most serious. Suggs says he's playing but has not practiced all week and might not do anything other than the walk-thru's prior to gametime and wear a shoulder harness similar to the ones that both Peter Boulware and Ray Lewis wore when they had similar injuries in past years. In the event that Suggs does not play or is limited in how much he is in there, the Ravens are looking at three options in his place. When Suggs went down in the Titans game, he was replaced by DE Marques Douglas. The Raven switched to a a standard 4-3 defense, with Ngata and Bannan at DT, and Douglas and Pryce at the DE's. Douglas is no slouch and could very well start for many teams in the league. There is also Jameel McClain, who has shown flashes of brilliance with two safeties this season (a Ravens record) from the outside LB/rush end position. The third option is LB Edgar Jones, who has been in on passing situations throughout his time with the Ravens. He made the temporary switch to TE when the Ravens were thin at that position but is now back at LB.
Samari Rolles's injury might limit him even more than Suggs. At least Suggs can still get his legs moving and with one arm is better than most hybrid LB/DE's in the league. Rolle, on the other hand, has a groin injury and needs his wheels to be able to defend the receivers. Without being able to keep up, cut and plant, much less take and give a hit, he is virtually worthless to the defense. A groin injury is not one that you can put in a brace, wrap tight or take a shot to lessen the pain. If it's torn, you just can't run well no matter what you try. In the case of Rolle's limited play, his replacement,...and it hurts me to even write this,..is Frank Walker. Walker has played some decent ball, but it was usually when the opponents haven't realized he was in there at CB. In the second game with Pittsburgh and the first with Tennessee (both losses), their game winning drives came at the coincidental times that Walker was in as an injury replacement for either Rolle or Chris McAlister (I believe Fabian Washingotn was injured earlier in the season as well). Not only does this make us a target on Walker's side, it moves our Dime Back, Corey Ivy into the Nickel position, which then puts him on the third best wideout, which is most likely going to be the dangerous Nate Washington. Our Dime Back will then either become Evan Oglesby or perhaps the Ravens will go with one of their two excellent, hard hitting rookie safeties, Tom Zbikowski and/or Haruki Nakamura. Personally, I'd rather see either of them than both of our reserve CB's in there.
Either way, no matter what the situation, most NFL teams have been hit hard in the injury department. This will not be an excuse with the Ravens as I fully expect them to be able to compete with the Steelers regardless of whom lines up at the start and end of the game. However, this couldn't have come at a more critical time of the season and while I acknowledge the NFL's longest continuous streak of weeks played without a Bye since they went to the 17 week regular season, I see it more as a result of our tough games and the style of violent defense we play than the so-called "tired" comments that all the pundits keep on replaying every week now. Trust me, no matter who goes out between the white lines, we will be ready and by the end of the game, they will know the answer to our question, "What's Our Name?"