Joe Flacco, Eugene Monroe, Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs, Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Elam, Chris Canty, Justin Forsett, Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, Will Davis, Lorenzo Taliaferro - this is just a sampling of the starting caliber players who landed on injured reserve in 2015. Not to mention Jimmy Smith, Ricky Wagner, C.J. Mosley, Will Hill, Lardarius Webb and Timmy Jernigan, who all were hampered by injuries at various points in the season. No team can overcome this many injuries to a majority of their top players and large percentage salary cap.
2015 is not the only season that has been derailed by injuries. The 2012 team found a way to overcome an excessive amount of important defensive injuries in route to a championship. The preseason injury of Dennis Pitta, combined with a banged up offensive line destroyed the Ravens aspirations in 2013. And in 2014, a rash of injuries in the secondary, including top cornerback Jimmy Smith, and 19 total players on I.R. finally caught up to the Ravens in the second round of the playoffs.
The Ravens have decided to do something about their recent injury situation. Actually three changes have been made in an effort to minimize injuries.
First, the Ravens have decided to replace the artificial turf at M&T Bank stadium with natural grass after 13 years of playing on synthetic 'Momentum' turf. The Ravens will spare no expense in maintaining the new natural grass field, using a hybrid of Bermuda and rye grass. The Ravens plan to re-sod the field at least once during the season and twice if necessary, using their backup fields of grass growing in North Carolina. Team officials downplayed the role of injuries when explaining this decision, but the players have made it clear that they believe natural grass is easier on the body and helps to prevent injuries.
The second step in mitigating injuries was the recent hire of Steve Saunders as their Director of Performance and Recovery. Saunders is a well respected personal trainer who will help the Ravens implement new methods of training with a focus on improved flexibility and balance. Saunders will work closely with Bob Rogucki, Director of Strength and Conditioning, and team physician Dr. Leigh Ann Curl.
The third prong of the new injury reduction strategy uses new technology to monitor the players in practice. The Ravens will install cameras at their training facility, the 'Castle', to track players' movements and test players every few days with certain jumps and movement. This technology will give the training staff a better picture of what areas of a given players' body are fatigued or need attention, allowing head coach John Harbaugh to rest players as needed.
All of these improvements should assist in decreasing injuries overall while also increasing the production from older players. Broken bones and torn ligaments cannot be completely avoided in a full contact sport, but muscle pulls and sprained joints can be minimized.
After several consecutive seasons which have each been impacted injuries, Ravens fans should be satisfied to see the Ravens organization being proactive to improving the injury problem.