J.K. Dobbins has been itching to play in front of Ravens fans and he may finally get his wish this Sunday.
Dobbins is questionable for Baltimore's home opener against the Dolphins after being a full participant in practice all week. More than 12 months have passed since the third-year running back tore his ACL, and missed the entire 2021 season, and the challenging rehab process has tested him both physically and mentally.
Now Dobbins sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and he's ready to run through it.
"I feel great. Actually, I feel amazing," Dobbins said. "It would be a surreal feeling just to get back out there. In front of a full stadium, I haven't done that yet since I've been in Baltimore. I know that I'll be feeling excited and hopefully the fans will be feeling excited as well."
Dobbins said he tore his ACL, LCL, hamstring and meniscus in last year's preseason finale, which made his recovery more difficult than expected.
"It was a severe injury, mentally it's been tough," Dobbins said. "I had an ankle in high school, first play of my senior year, came back from that easily. This knee, though – a whole new ballgame. I appreciate what the Ravens' organization is doing for me. They're letting me take my time."
Dobbins is ultra-competitive and it's been difficult for him to stay patient during the recovery process, but he's learning and seeking advice from others. He gave credit to the Ravens organization and medical staff for slowing him down.
Dobbins has communicated regularly with Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who has overcome a serious knee injury and rushed for 122 yards in Week 1. Seeing Barkley cut and slash past defenders on Sunday inspired Dobbins, who looks forward to doing the same. Hearing people question whether he'll be as explosive as he was prior to his injury only fuels Dobbins more.
"It's great to see him out there doing that. I always knew he could bounce back," Dobbins said. "He's been doubted by a lot of people. … Guys like us, the work ethic is amazing. He's not going to be stopped. I feel like I can do that, too. That's what I plan on doing."
Dobbins said taking the first hit isn't what will help him get over the mental hurdle of returning.
"The thing I want to prove mentally is when I run for 100 yards against somebody," Dobbins said. "A lot of doubters, in my mind. Not comparing myself to Michael Jordan, but I take every little thing I see (personally). I can't wait to do that, showcase my talents that God has given me. I'll get to prove to my coaches, GM and owner that they drafted the right person."
Patrick Mekari's Versatility Makes Him a Valuable Asset
The Ravens are thankful to have Patrick Mekari.
Ronnie Stanley is doubtful for Sunday and until he returns from ankle surgery, Mekari is likely to remain the starting left tackle. Mekari has started at guard and center during his career, and he's capable of starting at all five offensive line positions at a moment's notice.
"It's probably pretty darn rare. He's played all five in practice I promise you, plus tight end," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's just that kind of player. He plays well at every spot, and now he's playing left tackle, arguably the physically toughest position to play on the offensive line. [We're] very grateful that he's on our team, and he is who he is."
When Ja'Wuan James went down with a season-ending torn Achilles in Week 1, Mekari stepped in without missing a beat. On the next play, Lamar Jackson hit Devin Duvernay for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Harbaugh wasn't surprised that Mekari was ready, because he rotates to different positions during the week. Mekari finished his college career at Cal at left tackle.
"He's a regular there in practice," Harbaugh said. "He was prepared for that."
Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams Could Be Next Men Up at Cornerback
Baltimore's cornerback depth could be tested in Week 2. Neither Marlon Humphrey (groin) nor Brandon Stephens (quad) practiced Friday and they are questionable for Sunday, as is Marcus Peters (knee) who was limited.
That means fourth-round rookie corners Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams could see more playing time. The rookies have moved up the depth chart after Kyle Fuller (knee) was lost for the season in Week 1, and Williams played 13 snaps on defense in Week 1 while Armour-Davis played three. If the Ravens need the rookies to play more on Sunday, Harbaugh said they can handle it.
"They'd be ready, they look good, but they're rookies," Harbaugh said. "It'd be a new experience for them, but they've worked hard. They're talented guys. They'll be out there playing in the game both on defense and special teams no matter what the numbers end up being."
Rise & Conquer Will Not Be at Home Games This Year
The Ravens' live bird mascots, Rise & Conquer, will not be at home games on Ravens Walk this season.
Considering the prevalence of the bird flu currently, the Maryland Zoo and Ravens are taking extra precautions to keep the ravens safe.
Fans who would like to see the birds are encouraged to check out the Maryland Zoo.