Injuries in sports are something teams cannot escape, and for the Baltimore Ravens, injuries have been a detriment to the team for a while now. Fans have now grown to hold their breath whenever we reach this time of year when practices are just getting underway and waiting for a hint of bad news. Take last year for example, in OTA’s the Ravens lost one of their most promising young players, Tavon Young, to a torn ACL. The tight end position suffered a big loss as well with Joe Flacco’s most trusted target, Dennis Pitta, suffering yet another hip fracture and losing him for the season. The Ravens had a tight end competition with six players, and when you factor in Pitta’s injury and Darren Waller's suspension, the Ravens lost two of their six tight ends before training camp began.
Speaking of Flacco, while he didn’t miss any games in 2017, he didn’t necessarily escape the year unscathed. Flacco missed all of training camp and the preseason with a herniated disc, as well as taking a brutal shot from linebacker Kiko Alonso in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins. Flacco left the game with a concussion but returned the following week. Baltimore also lost one of their key mainstays on the offense in Marshal Yanda last year. Just two weeks into the season, Yanda suffered a broken ankle. While Baltimore’s offensive line did end up recovering, the loss of Yanda was immensely felt throughout those first several weeks he was out of the lineup. Other players such as Brent Urban, who has been plagued by injuries over his career, suffered a Lisfranc foot injury that needed surgery in Week 3. Kenneth Dixon, another of the team's bright young players from 2016 just like Young, got suspended for four games, but then suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee while training. Losing him for the year. The team also lost Alex Lewis for the season due to shoulder surgery during training camp.
Maybe the biggest injury of 2017 was yet again to cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith, when healthy, has been one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the game. However, his absence the last two years caused many breakdowns in the defense. Smith’s latest injury occurred in Week 13, suffering a torn Achilles. Smith’s availability for the start of 2018 is still in question. After having eighteen players on injured reserve in 2014, and twenty players in 2015 and 2016, Baltimore would fill the injured reserve list with twenty players again in 2017.
Baltimore has tried many different things to fix the injury problem that has plagued them for years now. The fact is, however, you can't completely avoid injuries in this violent of a sport. You just have to be very lucky and fortunate to keep your team relatively healthy as the season moves along. Baltimore will have injuries again this year, there’s no doubt about it, but they have to avoid as many as possible this time around. The Ravens, though, are once again banking on players with injury histories like the aforementioned Smith and Urban to stay healthy, but their careers suggest the chances don’t seem promising.
The NFL is unpredictable and injuries are part of the equation. You just never know which teams will stay healthy or be hit hard by injuries to key players that impact the year. In 2018, the Ravens go into yet another season where pundits are saying “If they stay healthy, they can make the playoffs.” Baltimore needs to limit the injuries, especially early on. They can’t have a large number of players already on the injured list heading into training camp like they did last year. Causing general manager Ozzie Newsome to scramble around at the last second looking for players to just fill the roster. OTA practices continue, and every fan will also continue to hold their collective breath.