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Eisenberg: Injuries Raise Questions, But Answers Can and Do Come From Anywhere at Any Time


I'm guessing the Ravens have developed a new idea for what constitutes a good day of practice.

Until recently, it included a healthy dose of all that good stuff coaches like to see – crisp execution, solid blocking, forceful tackling and a caliber of playmaking that suggests happy days ahead.

But after experiencing a staggering run of injuries, a good day now, almost surely, is one that does NOT end with them releasing another grim statement about another key player going down.

They've done it so much lately they could teach a class titled, say, "Bearer of Bad News 101." At this point, any day without an injury warrants a celebration. No one went down today? Extra cookies in the lunchroom!

I've read and heard with amusement the suggestions that the Ravens obviously need to review their practice and conditioning regimens because they must be doing something wrong. As if they aren't already monitoring those regimens to incorporate the latest sports science. And as if something other than plain, old bad luck isn't the primary culprit here.

Look, I like a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, but I dare you to find the common thread connecting injuries as diverse as those that knocked out Tavon Young, Kenneth Dixon and Nico Siragusa. Young's knee blew out during a non-contact walk-through. Siragusa's knee blew out when a teammate rolled into him during a padded training camp practice. Dixon suffered a torn knee meniscus while working out.

Three different knee injuries, three different causes. The only common thread is the player was lost.

Oh, I have a theory about why injuries in general are up in pro football. Could it be that players' bodies have become so developed that their God-given frames struggle to handle the weight and muscle? Makes sense to me.

But I'm no expert, and anyway, that's a possible rationale for injuries throughout the sport, not just in Baltimore. My two cents, other than cancelling all practices, swaddling their players in bubble wrap and hoping for better luck, there isn't much the Ravens can do.

If there's a silver lining, it's that the injuries are testing the limits of their depth, and so far, the depth is holding up pretty well.

Yes, it was a setback for the offensive line, already a concern, when rugged guard Alex Lewis was lost for the year. But James Hurst, who has bulked up and started playoff games, is a viable Plan B.

Yes, the Ravens liked both Tavon Young and Maurice Canady at slot cornerback before they went down. But they have Lardarius Webb, a veteran who can handle the role if needed.

No position has lost more players than tight end, but if Nick Boyle and Benjamin Watson are on the field, the Ravens should be OK.

On Monday, Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg memorably described returner Tim White's disappointing thumb injury as "a shot to the heart," but there are other options, including Keenan Reynolds.

Of course, any general notions about injuries and depth do NOT extend to the quarterback position. The back injury that has sidelined Joe Flacco during training camp is a development the Ravens can't tolerate for long. Any blueprint for a winning season in Baltimore begins with having Flacco under center.

When delivering the bad news about Lewis last week, the team also delivered the good news that Flacco is expected to be ready for the season opener in Cincinnati. It will be interesting to see if he can immediately play well after missing so much practice time, but if he's playing, period, it allows the Ravens to continue to think optimistically about the 2017 season.

Can they afford more injuries? Not many, I would say, especially given their tight salary cap situation.

But another training camp development has been the play of a seemingly exceptional crop of undrafted rookies such as White, cornerback Jaylen Hill, defensive end Patrick Ricard and running back Taquan Mizzell, just to name three.

Injuries raise questions, but answers can and do come from anywhere at any time. A year ago, Michael Pierce was a total unknown. Today, he's a key to the defense.

That's how this works. While losing puzzle pieces, the Ravens also are adding puzzle pieces. That's worth remembering. It's a juggle, not a dead end. Far from it, in fact.

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