Mark Andrews is on injured reserve, but that doesn't mean he's out of the mix.
Isaiah Likely said he still talks to Andrews about three or four times a week, sharing notes on how Lamar Jackson likes certain routes run, upcoming opponents, and, of course, how Andrews doing after in his recovery from a probable season-ending ankle injury.
"Mark is great. He's a soldier," Likely said this week on "The Lounge" podcast. "It takes a lot to keep him down, I can tell you that. He's in good spirits. He knows that when he's ready and 100%, he's going to give it everything he's got."
552: Isaiah Likely Talks About Life as TE1, How Mark Andrews Is Still Involved, His Lamar Jackson Impersonation
Ravens TE Isaiah Likely talks about how he handled Mark Andrews' injury, how he's still learning from Andrews, developing chemistry with Lamar Jackson, and much more.
Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are not closing the door on the possibility that Andrews could return at some point, perhaps the playoffs.
"I will tell you if Mark feels like he can play this year, he will give it everything he has because that means Mark can do everything that Mark does," Likely said.
Until then (and probably the rest of the year), it's Likely leading the way as TE1. The Ravens could have signed veteran free-agent tight end Zach Ertz, but they're rolling with their second-year tight end combo of Likely and Charlie Kolar. That faith has paid off.
After getting 12 targets in the Ravens' first 11 games, Likely has 13 targets in the past two. Since becoming the starter, he's made nine catches for 123 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams when a coverage bust left him wide open down the sideline.
Behind the scenes, Andrews is still the "big brother" Likely has always leaned on. A day after Andrews first suffered the injury, he texted Likely, "Lamar needs you. It's your time. Be who you are."
Likely has been reaching out to Andrews to ask him how he might run certain routes for Jackson, or how he might handle a certain safety/cornerback/linebacker that Andrews has previously faced.
Likely is trying to build the chemistry Jackson and Andrews have long had. During practice, Likely will review plays on video with Jackson to ask him whether he would want the route run any differently. Then Likely sends the same play to Andrews for his perspective.
"I'll ask Mark, 'If you were to run this route, let me know how you would run it,'" Likely said. "That's before I even show him the play. And then when I show him the play, he'll tell me if he would have tweaked it a little bit."
Likely has shown his athleticism to make defenders miss in space and pick up yards after catch. He knows that down the stretch, he's going to have to make those tough chain-moving catches in clutch situations – the ones Jackson has relied on Andrews to make over the years.
Likely didn't capitalize on one of those opportunities earlier this year when he dropped a third-down pass in overtime against the Colts, which may have been enough to set up Justin Tucker for a game-winning field goal. That play is still motivating Likely.
"The Colts drop I had on third down in overtime, that beats me up, knowing I was in the right spot," Likely said. "It got late in the game, head a little flurry. I told [Jackson], 'I'll never have that happen again.'
"We talked and he told me, 'Zay, you're a way better player than that. I already know 10 times out of 10, if I throw you that again, you're going to catch it. So get out of your own head. We've got another game.'"