Gus Edwards has a hard time believing he's entering his sixth NFL season, but "The Bus" has never felt more ready to roll.
"I have a lot of experience under my belt, and saying Year 6, it seems like, 'Wow, this time's flashing,'" Edwards said. "But I'm ready to have my best year. I'm ready to put it all together. I feel like I'm in a great position to do that, and I have a chip on my shoulder. I just want to prove a lot of people wrong."
Edwards suffered a torn ACL in September of 2021 and it's been a long road back for the bruising running back. He missed the entire 2021 season and didn't return until Week 7 of last year, out of NFL action for 646 days. Edwards rushed for 433 yards in nine games after returning last year. He still averaged 5.0 yards per carry, a mark he's hit each of his four seasons on the field.
He's healthier and more confident now, looking lean and powerful and running without restriction during training camp.
With J.K. Dobbins on the PUP list, Edwards is the lead back on the first depth chart released by the Ravens' public relations team this season and is not expected to play in Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium (7 p.m.). However, Edwards has practiced every day during training camp, and he's ready to remind people what a load he is to bring down when he's running behind his pads between the tackles. He's ready to be "The Bus."
"I feel great. I've been practicing every single day," Edwards said. "[I] didn't have to pull back, not once, and I'm just building off of that.
"At this time last year, I was probably questioning myself like, 'Man, how is it going to play out? Am I even going to be back next year?' It was a lot of doubts, and this year I'm just … I feel great in the position that I am right now, health wise. I'm just ready to do what I can for my team."
Edwards is one of the team's hardest-working players and nothing has ever been handed to him. He made the practice squad as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and helped the Ravens go 6-1 down the stretch to make the playoffs that year when he was activated in October and eventually took over as the starting running back.
Running with power between the tackles is Edwards' bread and butter, but he keeps adding to his game. He's become more adept at making tacklers miss, and his pass-catching and route running have improved every year.
Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken has a history of involving running backs in the passing game and Edwards has been catching balls consistently out of the backfield during camp. He's eager to see his role expand in that area.
"I'm ready to do whatever this offense allows me to do," Edwards said. "[I'm] ready to make plays in different ways, and I feel like that's something I've always been able to do. This offense is going to put me in that space to make those plays and get open in checkdowns and stuff."
With the additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor, the Ravens expect their passing offense to take a jump. If that happens, it could force opposing teams to move their safeties out of the box, and Edwards is licking his chops at the prospect of running against teams that aren't crowding the line of scrimmage.
"It's a great opportunity to see some lighter [defensive] boxes," Edwards said. "In the past, like you guys are aware, we had to run through some tougher boxes. So, [it's a] great opportunity to our running backs in some space and I think we're going to make the best out of it."
Staying motivated has never been a problem for Edwards, but he's oozing with fire this season. He has never been part of an offense that looks this balanced on paper and he has huge expectations for himself and the team.
Edwards' major knee injury is finally in the rearview mirror, and his path to a strong season looks clear. He's part of a deep running back room that includes Dobbins, Justice Hill and Melvin Gordon III, but Edwards feels ready to make the most of his opportunities.
"I mean, I fought through a lot last year," Edwards said. "There were a lot of times where I had to step back from the game – even during the season when I [had] just [some] little knicks and stuff. So, this year I feel like I just have so much to prove.
"Shoutout to the Ravens organization for keeping me around and just giving me all the support that I need. It's been tough, but I'm back, and I'm happy, and I'm excited to see what this year brings."