OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With John Harbaugh giving his players two days off following their 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals that secured an AFC North title and a first-round bye, the coach was surprised to see roughly half the team at the Ravens’ training facility on Monday morning.
Of course, many were receiving treatment in the training room as the Ravens deal with a laundry list of ailments and injuries after completing the regular season with a 12-4 record. Securing their first bye since the 2006 season, the Ravens enjoy the benefit of extra time to heal while feeling the accomplishment of advancing to the divisional round without having to endure another 60 minutes of football.
“[The bye] counts as a win,” Harbaugh said. “This win was kind of a one-for-two. We won one game, we got two wins. So, that’s big.”
All 12 playoff teams would reap the benefit of an extra week off after the rigors of a four-month season, but the Ravens’ large number of injuries made the accomplishment all the more important for their Super Bowl aspirations. Listening to Harbaugh run down the list of injuries made it clear.
The most serious of the injuries appears to be the MCL sprain suffered by linebacker Jameel McClain. The injury is not considered serious, according to Harbaugh, but the inside linebacker will likely be held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Tom Zbikowski were feeling no lingering symptoms on Monday from the concussions they sustained against Cincinnati. They will need to be cleared this week, but Harbaugh remained optimistic about a quick recovery time for both. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is also improving despite being sidelined against the Bengals from the concussion he suffered against Cleveland on Christmas Eve.
Safety Bernard Pollard is dealing with a sprained wrist and an elbow contusion while defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered an elbow laceration. Despite suffering a left hip sprain during Sunday’s game, defensive tackle Terrence Cody was able to return.
After one of the guttiest performances in the history of the franchise, guard Marshal Yanda is dealing with soreness but made it through Sunday’s game without re-aggravating rib and thigh contusions.
Harbaugh also confirmed kicker Billy Cundiff felt good after resuming kicking duties against the Bengals. He will remain the Ravens’ kicker as long as he is healthy, leaving veteran Shayne Graham’s future in doubt as the Ravens move into the postseason.
“We’ll hold onto Shayne as long as we can now, but if we have to make a roster move, obviously, that’s the direction we would go,” Harbaugh said. “He did a great job. Why he’s not holding onto a job right now, I’m not sure, but we were very fortunate for him to be able to come in and fill that gap for us.”
The Ravens will also look forward to the return of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who practiced on a limited basis last Friday and was upgraded from “out” to “doubtful” on the final injury report released ahead of the Bengals game. Harbaugh confirmed last week that all swelling had subsided from the surgical procedure Boldin underwent to repair a partially-torn meniscus.
With six more to go before the Ravens even learn who they will be playing in the divisional round of the playoffs, they will primarily use this week to improve their overall health. However, players will also work on their strength and conditioning as well as a rare opportunity for self-evaluation without an opponent for which to prepare this week. The coaching staff is preparing for three potential opponents in the second round, but they will also use this week’s practices to continue to develop younger players, especially considering how many veterans are banged up.
Players will be off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but linebacker Jarret Johnson expressed the team’s mindset to Harbaugh on the flight home after one of the biggest wins in the regular-season history of the franchise.
“Their whole mindset right now is to be the best football team we can be a week from Sunday at 1:00,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what our team is thinking about right now. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
Even with a weekend off from playing a football game, it’s apparent the Ravens are maintaining a workmanlike approach with their eyes focused on taking the next step toward Indianapolis.
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