When the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Chicago Bears 16-13 in Week 11, it didn’t just mark their seventh victory of the season. It was the first time on over a full calendar year — a whole year and six days to be exact — that veteran tight end Nick Boyle was on a football field in an actual game.
Boyle was following up the best season of his career in 2019 with another strong one through the first nine games in 2020. Then, he suffered a horrific injury that knocked him of commission for the remainder of the year. When New England Patriots’ linebacker Terez Hall collided into his knee after he made a short reception for four yards, anyone with eyes and a weak stomach could tell that his road to recovery was going to be long and arduous.
While his ACL surprisingly stayed intact, that was about the only ligament/muscle that didn’t sustain any damage on the catastrophic play. In his most recent press conference, Boyle shared that he suffered a torn MCL, PCL, meniscus and that hamstring that came completely off the bone — as well as a small fracture.
As bad as all that sounds, the seventh-year veteran hardly seemed phased when he was carted off the field but that was likely due to all the adrenaline that was pumping through his veins and body possibly going into a state of shock. The excruciating pain came in the aftermath of the reconstructive surgery that he underwent to repair the damage to his knee.
“That was the like the worst surgery of my life,” Boyle said Wednesday. “That week after was miserable – staying there in Texas.”
He spent all offseason rehabbing at the Under Armor Performance Facility with fellow veteran Ronnie Stanley. He explained that he had the same questions and concerns that go through his head that any athlete at any level does when they suffer a major injury that requires surgery.
“When you get injured like this, you fight daily battles with yourself when you’re not feeling good yet,” Boyle said. “You always think to yourself, ‘Am I going to be the player I was before?’ That goes through your head daily, and you’ve got to really erase that, and just go to work and work every single day.”
Boyle underwent another procedure — albeit minor this time around — in August that kept in out of practice and all the entire preseason as he eased his way back. As he was nearing the end of his 21-day window after being activated from short-term injured reserve, he wanted to take all the time he could before feeling comfortable taking the field again in live-action against an opposing team.
“I don’t think I’m there yet, but I think I’m getting better every single day,” he said. “I have full belief that I will go out there, and I will be how I was, and I will be even better. But that stuff just takes time.”
Many thought that the Ravens’ Week 9 game against the Minnesota Vikings would be his debut. When he also didn’t suit up for their Week 10 bout with the Miami Dolphins, some began to wonder when or if the time would come.
Boyle is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and didn’t waste any time reminding the Ravens just how integral and impactful he is to the success of their ground game. Against the Bears, running back Devonta Freeman carried the ball on the first two plays from scrimmage and leading the way for the runs of five and 10 yards was Boyle.
“When I blocked my guy, and I saw the running back get through, that made me feel a little better,” Boyle said.
He was only targeted once and while the pass was a little bit high, it was certainly still catchable and some of his rust kind of showed on the play. Nevertheless, it was just nice to see him back out on the field after all he has been through and overcome in the past year.