Outside of the starting quarterback, a singular major injury rarely has the type of seismic ripple effect on an offense in the way that Ronnie Stanley’s has for the Baltimore Ravens over the past season and a half. Just days after inking a massive extension that locked him up through 2025, the franchise left tackle suffered a major ankle injury during the 2020 season that has since required multiple surgeries.
The team’s front office brass and coaching staff anticipated having Stanley healthy and ready to go for the 2021 season but that failed to come to fruition. He suited up for the season opener before sitting out the remainder of the year following another surgery. The topic of his injury and why the team was so optimistic that he’d be healed enough to contribute came up in General Manager Eric DeCosta’s press conference this past Friday.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about quite a bit, and it’s probably my mistake,” DeCosta said Friday at his postseason news conference. “I don’t want to use [the word] assuming, but I was expecting Ronnie would come back this year, full strength. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. There’s probably a lot of blame to go around.
“Ultimately, I’m the guy who has to talk to the various doctors and trainers and make a decision and determination at that position. My understanding and belief was that Ronnie would come back this year and play really good football for us, and be healthy and be strong and be ready to go. He wasn’t. That was a big setback.”
This injury has caused Stanley to miss 27 of a possible 35 games including playoffs since he went down in Week 8 of the 2020 season. Thankfully they were able to slide Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. over to the left tackle spot, where he played in college, in 2020.
Unfortunately, after trading Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs, whiffing on the gamble that Alejandro Villanueva had anything left in the tank, and not selecting a single tackle in the draft, the Ravens were severely short-handed and talent deficient at offensive tackle in 2021. While Patrick Mekari played admirably at times as the right bookend, he struggled with injuries and did get beat around the edge in some key situations.
“I’m proud of the fact that we could battle through that, losing one of your very, very best players, losing a significant amount of salary cap to an injury like that,” DeCosta said.
DeCosta is not only optimistic about Stanley making a full recovery this time around and resuming his playing career after a dicey past couple of seasons. He also envisions that the supremely gifted and highly compensated offensive lineman will return to his elite form and be back protecting Lamar Jackson’s blindside when he is cleared to resume all football activities.
“I truly believe that Ronnie is going to be back this year and play good football, play winning football and become, again, the Ronnie Stanley that was an All-Pro left tackle,” DeCosta said. “If he can do that, that will be a huge, huge advantage for us moving forward.