The Ravens have won five straight games without All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who announced Tuesday that he would undergo season-ending ankle surgery.
Teammates and coaches feel for Stanley, who faces more months of rehab before he is healthy enough to return. But the Ravens know their job is to keep winning without him, although Stanley is disappointed he can't play until next season.
"It's definitely been rough for Ronnie," Pro Bowl corner Marlon Humphrey said. "He hasn't let his own circumstance affect his energy in the building. He's still showing up, talking to the guys, giving tips, coming to the games. It takes a true leader to be able to do that. I was with him some during the summer. Every day he was faithful with the rehab he was doing, even when we were on vacation. It sucks to see him go through that. We'll be with him as a team as he goes through this surgery and recovery."
Alejandro Villanueva has been the left tackle since Week 2 and has found a comfort zone playing his natural position. When Villanueva signed with the Ravens this offseason, he spent the summer preparing to play right tackle for the first time in his career. He had a rough outing in the season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, but since moving back to left tackle, Villanueva has been solid protecting Lamar Jackson's blindside.
"Al has been doing a great job filling in for Ronnie, just been playing his butt off," Jackson said. "He's a grown man, he knows what he's doing, and there's going to be a lot more playing time for him, since Ronnie is on IR – even though that's my guy. It's all good, because we've got 'Big Al.'"
Head Coach John Harbaugh said the hope is that Stanley will be 100 percent next season after this latest procedure. Harbaugh said the doctors couldn't pinpoint when a setback happened.
"It just didn't work out, I guess. That's the best way I could explain it," Harbaugh said. "Maybe Ronnie … He's much more involved with it. He's talking with the doctors all through it. He probably could explain it better than I could."
Harbaugh was asked if there's any concern about the ankle getting full flexibility back after multiple surgeries.
"I'm sure there are concerns. That's probably one of the concerns, I would assume," Harbaugh said. "The target would be next season. Having it done now as opposed to after the season probably helps in that sense. So, we'll just have to see what happens."
Tight end Mark Andrews said the Ravens should be proud of having the best record in the AFC (5-1) despite losing Stanley and a host of key players.
"We've obviously been hit by a lot of injuries," Andrews said. "You see the type of resiliency this team showed. Obviously Ronnie is going to be on the sidelines supporting us. I love him to death but he's going to be there helping the O-linemen out like a great captain, great teammate. That's what we expect from him."
Marlon Humphrey Thirsts for Fruit Punch
Humphrey led the NFL in forced fumbles with eight last season, perfecting a punch-out move he calls the "Fruit Punch."
One of those takeaways occurred against the Cincinnati Bengals last season, when Humphrey's forced fumble was returned 53 yards for a touchdown by Patrick Queen.
Humphrey is thirsty for his first forced fumble this season, and he's hoping lightning will strike against the Bengals again on Sunday. Opposing ballcarriers are more wary than ever when Humphrey is in the vicinity and are keeping a tight grip on the ball.
"I haven't had much luck in the turnover department this year," Humphrey said. "It'd be a good homecoming to get my hands on some footballs this week."
Even if Humphrey doesn't get a forced fumble, he'd take his first interception of the season. He nearly had a juggling pick last week against Justin Herbert and the Chargers. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown seven so far this season, tied for the third-most in the league.
"A lot of times, as a corner, you think, 'Oh, I've got this guy covered so well that he's not going to throw this ball,'" Humphrey said. "But he [Burrow] is one of those guys that's like, 'I think my guy is better than yours.' So, when you've got matchups like that, you get excited."
Patrick Ricard Is Back to Top Form
After an offseason hip procedure, Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard has played at a consistently high level, particularly in recent weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, Ricard was the second-highest graded Raven (80.9) during Sunday's 34-6 rout over the Los Angeles Chargers, trailing only Andrews (91.8). Ricard's PFF grades have steadily risen the past three weeks.
Ricard's devastating blocking has been especially important this season with Nick Boyle sidelined after last year's major knee injury. With 11 games still remaining, Ricard could be on his way to another Pro Bowl year after his injury.
"I see him getting stronger and better every day," Harbaugh said. "It takes time. You're back, but you're not fully back. I see him getting fully back the last couple of weeks. He looks really strong right now."
Andrews continues to be impressed by Ricard's ability to fill whatever role the coaching staff asks. He has excelled as a defensive lineman, fullback and blocking tight end since making the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2017.
"Project Pat, Pro Bowl Pat. He's incredible," Andrews said. "Coming into the league (at) D-line, fullback. Now he's like a legit tight end. He's doing everything that tight ends do. He's so versatile. G-Ro asks a bunch of him and every game he brings it. He's driving his feet. He's moving guys five, 10, 15 yards off the ball. He's invaluable to our team."
James Carpenter Signs, Brandon Knight Elects Not to Report
Harbaugh was pleased with the addition of guard James Carpenter to the practice squad. Carpenter, 32, was a 2011 first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks and played for the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons. He was a starter in two Super Bowls with the Seahawks. Carpenter has started every game he's played in throughout his 10-year career, including 13 games last season with the Falcons.
The 6-foot-5, 321-pound lineman has been a left guard for the past nine years after starting his career at right tackle. Carpenter was cut by the Falcons two years into a four-year, reported $21 million contract as part of a cost-savings move.
"Our personnel staff does such a good job," Harbaugh said. "That's a good football player that's done well in the league, knows what he's doing. It just gives us more depth."
Veteran offensive tackle Brandon Knight elected not to report to the Ravens after being awarded to them off waivers. Knight was waived by the Dallas Cowboys over the weekend after playing just three snaps this season.
"That was a personal decision on his part," Harbaugh said. "He'd have to answer that. He decided not to report."