Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley and running back JK Dobbins are expected to return the Ravens’ running game to prominence, but it is still uncertain when they will return to the starting lineup.

Stanley is recovering from an ankle injury that has kept him out of 29 of the Ravens’ last 30 games, while Dobbins is out in the 2021 preseason with a hamstring in his left knee along with a torn ACL, LCL and meniscus. I have been out since I was diagnosed. The Final Few could predict whether he would be as dominant as he was before his injuries.

It’s a toss up.

“There’s a big difference between walking and running on these injured joints and doing what an NFL athlete is expected to do,” said Scott Adams, a Catonsville-based orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine.

“So just seeing them able to walk in the media room or go through walkthrough practice is in no way an indication that they’re 100% recovered.”

That sums up the status of Stanley and Dobbins as well as the Ravens’ running game, which is No. 18 in the league through two games but would be near the bottom if not for star quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Dobbins practiced fully leading up to Sunday’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins. Said he felt “amazing”. But he was inactive for the game.

Prior to his injury, Stanley was considered one of the top young tackles in the league, signing a five-year, $112.8 million contract on October 30, 2020. But he Suffered a serious ankle injury just a few days later against the Pittsburgh Steelers and has played in just one game — the 2021 season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders — since then.

Early in his coaching career in Baltimore, John Harbaugh was aggressive in pushing players to return to the field, which resulted in disagreements with trainers. But after several starters were injured last season, Harbaugh is perhaps more cautious. This offseason, team Resumed his training camp practice routine. And Hired a new head athletic trainer. In an effort to minimize injuries.

Having Stanley and Dobbins out this early in the season is a smart thing.

“By far the biggest challenge in such an elite athlete after one of these severe injuries is getting that extra explosiveness and skill to come back,” Adams said. “There are many examples where players have been able to do this, but the statistics tell us that not everyone is able to come back 100%.

“But surgery gives them a much better chance of doing that. [than] If you don’t have it surgically repaired. So, you need patience.”

Dobbins has a better chance of returning sooner than Stanley. Almost a decade ago, knee injuries took two years to recover from, forcing many players to retire in the twilight of their careers.

The recovery process is very different now.

“There have been some great advances in healing these injuries early,” Adams said. “One is later recovery, where we’ve seen an improvement in being able to push therapy faster. Athletes are running sooner, getting stronger faster and can do what’s called an accelerated recovery program. This can significantly reduce recovery time.

“We have more concrete methods of fixation and we have more predictable ways of healing knee injuries. We also know that they can use the knee earlier than we thought 10 years ago.

There is a lot of hope around Dobbins. He has been eager to return since training camp began in late July. As a rookie, he gained 805 yards on 134 carries and scored nine touchdowns.

He had that rare combination of speed and power. He wasn’t a home run hitter, but he could still get the bulk of the yardage. His one-cut, downhill style was perfect for the Ravens’ offense.

After his injury last season, the Ravens brought in veterans like Devonta Freeman, Latavius ​​Murray and Le’Veon Bell, none of whom are still on active NFL rosters. This year, they’ve relied on Kenyan Drake, Mike Davis and Justus Hill, who have the fewest rushing yards (74) of any running back group in the NFL.

It is clear that Dobbins has been cut above his posts. The question is, can he return to his old form?

“For Dobbins, once the knee is stabilized, his strength and range of motion is back to where it was before surgery and he’s up to playing standards, I think he can get back there. where he was before the injury,” Adams said.

But?

“Again, there are a lot of NFL running backs that have proven that it’s meant to be, but unfortunately there are some that have shown that they just can’t get back to 100%,” Adams said. said

Stanley’s situation is different because of the length and nature of the recovery process. The former Notre Dame standout, who was selected No. 6 overall by the Ravens in the 2016 draft, has had three surgeries on his left ankle since the initial injury.

He’s also 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, which puts a lot of stress on the joints.

“Stanley is a big guy and puts a lot of weight and force on a relatively small joint, and that adds to the challenge of a full recovery for a number of reasons,” Adams said.

“Stanley is a challenging case now that it’s been going on for a few years and he’s had multiple surgeries. The truth with that is yet to be determined. Clearly the ankle is not fully healed, or it’s there. The longer it takes to return, the less predictable a full return will be.

So, all the Ravens can do is wait and hope.

If they had a good running game, they could have been able to keep the Miami Dolphins offense off the field in the fourth quarter. Sunday’s devastating 42-38 loss.

If they had Dobbins or Stanley, they would have been able to convert two crucial fourth downs. But right now, Raven can only be patient.

Other than that they can do something.

Week 3

Ravens @Patriots

Sunday, 1 p.m

Television: Chaudhary. 45

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

line: Ravens by 2 1/2

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