Injuries turned the 2015 season into a lost one for an organization that’s not used to being irrelevant: the Baltimore Ravens.
Through John Harbaugh’s first seven seasons in Baltimore, the club made six playoff appearances and won Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The low-water mark of the Harbaugh era in the Charm City had been eight wins in 2013, but that changed last year, as the bumps and bruises piled up early and often.
At one point 20 different Ravens were placed on injured reserve. The result was a 5-11 campaign in which Baltimore was a lot closer to Cleveland than Cincinnati or Pittsburgh in the always competitive AFC North.
Most assume last year was the anomaly for the Ravens, and that 2016 will be back to business as usual in Owings Mills, with the club fighting for a postseason spot in one of the toughest divisions in football.
Maybe that will be the case, but things rarely go as smoothly as expected. Moreover, time has not healed all wounds in Baltimore just yet.
The Ravens announced Saturday that six different players will start training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which basically means they can’t pass their physicals; practice is a no-no.
It’s not time to panic — no one is playing games in late July — but it does speak to how banged-up the Ravens were a season ago, and to the fact that rehabilitation out of the public eye won’t magically turn a player into the factory-refurbished version of his former self.
Some of the players Baltimore is trying to get up to speed figure to be very important to any potential success: edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, along with wide receivers Steve Smith and always-injured Breshad Perriman. Rounding out the PUP list for the Ravens are running back Trent Richardson, who is trying to revive his career in the shadow of the Inner Harbor, and cornerback Jumal Rolle.
None of this is all the surprising either because Suggs and Smith are veterans still in the midst of rehabbing Achilles injuries; Dumervil is coming off offseason foot surgery; Perriman partially tore the ACL in his left knee during offseason workouts; Rolle has already been ruled out for 2016 with his own torn Achilles suffered in offseason work; and Richardson isn’t in shape.
Most of what went on in Baltimore on Saturday was record keeping for the start of camp, but it does highlight how fragile a team’s fortunes can be.
The expectations are that Suggs, Dumervil and Smith will return sometime later in camp. As veterans who have been around a block a time or two, their presence in the early stages of the process is simply not needed. Perriman’s short NFL resume speaks to the fact that you can’t trust the former first-round pick to find the field. Even though he’s expected to play with his injury, that will bear watching as the regular season approaches.
Richardson, meanwhile, is a low-priority reclamation project. If the former No. 3 pick — who flamed out in Cleveland, Indianapolis and Oakland — can lose weight and catch lightning in a bottle, great. If not, he’ll be just a footnote to this team’s 2016 story, because no one is actually counting on the former University of Alabama star.
There was a bit of good news, though, and it was buried because it involved a name that wasn’t on the PUP list: staring quarterback Joe Flacco.
The iron man had played 122 consecutive NFL games before tearing his ACL and MCL on the final drive of a Week 11 win over the (then-) St. Louis Rams on Nov. 22 last season. Fast forward eight months: The 31-year-old Super Bowl champion is already cleared to get back under center.
That fact alone makes the Ravens relevant again.
John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on YAHOO! Sports Radio, FOX Sports Radio, as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.