OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s a move Ravens running back Mark Ingram said he’d made “8 million times” before sustaining a non-contact injury on the first play of the fourth quarter in Cleveland last Sunday.
The Pro Bowl selection and 1,000-yard rusher went to the ground after a fake hand-off from quarterback Lamar Jackson and initially feared the worst before the diagnosis of what head coach John Harbaugh described as “a mild-to-moderate calf strain.” Ingram won’t play in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh on Sunday, but he expressed confidence that he’ll be ready to go in top-seed Baltimore’s first playoff game two weeks from this weekend.
“I just did a step-back, and it just felt like somebody like kicked me or hit me in the back of my calf,” Ingram said. “I didn’t know if Lamar had cleated me when he ran by, but he didn’t. It just felt like somebody kind of popped a balloon in my calf. It was kind of scary, kind of nerve-wracking.
“You hear about that feeling a lot of times when guys do more serious stuff. I’m just happy that it wasn’t serious like that.”
Ingram was not wearing a walking boot on his left leg Thursday like he did when leaving the visitor locker room in Cleveland four days earlier, another positive development in his recovery.
Even if healthy, Ingram would have been unlikely to play against the Steelers with Harbaugh planning to rest several top starters in a game with no playoff implications for the Ravens. Winners of 11 straight games, Baltimore needs just 93 yards to set the new 16-game single-season record for rushing yards in a season currently held by the 1978 New England Patriots (3,165).
Top backup running back Gus Edwards is expected to start Sunday with rookie Justice Hill backing him up, but the 30-year-old Ingram believes the extra time to recover will allow him to be on the field for the divisional round. The former New Orleans Saint will be missing his first game for health reasons — he served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy last year — since sitting out four games with a shoulder injury in 2015.
“I have confidence I’ll be ready to go,” Ingram said. “The team’s doing a good job, the training staff’s doing a good job [with] around-the-clock treatment and getting it ready to go. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready to go for that first playoff game.”
Ingram wasn’t the only key player sitting out Thursday’s practice with an injury as tight end Mark Andrews (ankle) and safety Earl Thomas (knee/hand) were also absent. Harbaugh already said Thomas would be part of the list of key players including Jackson, right guard Marshal Yanda, and defensive tackle Brandon Williams who would rest in Week 17.
Cornerbacks Marcus Peters (chest) and Jimmy Smith (groin) were limited participants in Thursday’s practice.
Needing a win over the Ravens and a Tennessee loss at Houston as the most plausible scenario to sneak into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, the Steelers will be without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (knee) and may not have top running back James Conner, who missed his second straight practice with a quad injury. Starting cornerback Joe Haden also missed Thursday’s practice with a foot injury.
Below is Thursday’s full injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Mark Andrews (ankle), RB Mark Ingram (calf), S Earl Thomas (knee/hand), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury), DE Chris Wormley (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marcus Peters (chest), CB Jimmy Smith (groin)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Brandon Carr (non-injury)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB James Conner (quad), G Ramon Foster (non-injury), CB Joe Haden (foot), C Maurkice Pouncey (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Mark Barron (non-injury), G David DeCastro (non-injury), DT Cameron Hayward (non-injury), TE Vance McDonald (non-injury), CB Steven Nelson (groin), OT Alejandro Villanueva (non-injury), LB T.J. Watt (non-injury)