Top Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith may not be ready to go at the start of next season as he recovers from a torn Achilles suffered on Dec. 3.
Smith wheeled himself out of the Ravens locker room on a scooter on the morning after the team's season-ending loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
By the time the Ravens would need him back on the field next year to start the regular season, about nine months will have passed.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked Thursday whether he expects Smith to be ready to go.
"It's up in the air," Harbaugh said. "It's normally a 6-8-month injury with an Achilles. You saw how fast 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] came back from his. Then there's always a building back to your skill set, too – so we understand that."
Suggs tore his Achilles during the 2012 offseason, just before the draft, and miraculously returned to the field just five months and six days after having surgery. Team doctors weren't even sure he was going to be able to play at all that year, but he missed just six games.
Every player is different, and saying that Smith will be able to return as quickly as Suggs isn't a given. But considering the season is about eight months away, even a conservative approach could get Smith back on the field for Week 1.
"We'll see where he's at," Harbaugh said. "I'm hopeful, but we'll have a bunch of corners here, too, to make sure that we have enough corners – as you know."
Smith was having his finest season before the injury, despite playing with Achilles soreness for much of it. In 12 starts, he had 28 tackles, nine passes defensed and three interceptions (tied for a single-season high). He was one of the league's best cover corners, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), and may have been on his way to his first Pro Bowl.
But even once Smith does return to the field, he may not be physically back at the same level, as Harbaugh mentioned.
Other players who have returned from Achilles tears, including Suggs, wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Benjamin Watson, have talked about gradually building back up to full speed, even after being ready to play.
First-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey performed quite well stepping in for Smith. Over the final four games, he allowed 12 receptions for 129 yards, per PFF. He didn't surrender a single touchdown.
On the other side, Baltimore still has veteran Brandon Carr under contract. There's also Maurice Canady and Tavon Young is expected to be ready after tearing his ACL last summer.
Harbaugh gave an update on Young and the many other injured Ravens from the 2017 season. Here are the status reports:
G Marshal Yanda
Injury: Broken ankle
Date suffered: Sept. 17
Update: "I won't do anything with Marshal until training camp, probably, but Marshal will be ready long before that, and he's already moving and doing some things."
CB Tavon Young
Injury: Torn ACL
Date suffered: June 1
Update: "Tavon is doing great. Tavon should be ready for OTAs and ready to roll."
G Alex Lewis
Date suffered: Surgery in mid-August
Update: "Alex Lewis will be ready to go."
RB Kenneth Dixon
Injury: Bucket-handle meniscus tear
Date suffered: Mid-July
Update: "Kenny Dixon will be ready to roll."
LB Albert McClellan
Injury: Torn ACL
Date suffered: Aug. 25
Update: "Albert should be ready to go, at least by training camp – maybe sooner. I think sooner, actually."
DE Brent Urban
Injury: Lisfranc foot
Date suffered: Sept. 24
Update: "Brent Urban will be ready to roll, if we re-sign him. He's on my list, so I brought him up. I'm all for re-signing Brent Urban – for the record."
WR Tim White
Injury: Broken hand
Date suffered: Aug. 10
Update: "Tim White is 100 percent now. He's healed. He probably could've played the last six weeks of the season, but we didn't have that roster spot."
WR Jeremy Maclin
Date suffered: Dec. 17
Update: "Maclin would have had a chance for this [wild-card] game – a very realistic chance for this game."
DB Anthony Levine Sr.Injury:FootDate suffered:Dec. 31Update: "He had a little injury in the game. I haven't gotten a report on that one yet, so I don't' know the extent of his injury. It wasn't a surgery-type injury, I don't think."