It's been a very long road back for Ronnie Stanley after his second ankle surgery (and more), but Stanley is coming down the home stretch.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since he went on the shelf last season, Stanley expressed pleasure with the approach he and the Ravens organization has taken to his rehab and confidence that he'll be back to the All-Pro player he once was – soon.
Stanley said he will talk over whether he'll play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills with the Ravens' coaching and presumably medical staff and "make the best decision that's best for the team."
"This could very possibly be the week. I'm very close," Stanley said.
Stanley practiced fully Thursday for the second straight day. It's the first time he's practiced fully since going under the knife last season after playing in just one game.
The Ravens' premier left tackle said he and the team took a different approach to his rehab this time than after his first ankle injury on Nov. 1, 2020.
"We don't want to rush things. We want to make sure that I'm able to play and to be here for the whole season," Stanley said.
"I think things are going really well, things are going according to plan. I want to be out there as soon as I can. The whole organization has taken this approach and we're all on the same page about it, making sure I'm ready to go when I do get out there. I'm itching to get out there with my teammates and I'm really close. I'm really close."
Asked how he feels compared to last year when he was about to take the field for Week 1, Stanley said he feels "way different."
"I feel way better than what I was when I played that first game last year," Stanley said. "I'm in a way better place. I'm very optimistic, very confident in me getting back to where I want to be."
"He's looking explosive, as good as I've seen him look," Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said. "He hasn't played ball in about two years, though, so they'll definitely be an acclimation period for him, which we're going through now. And I love where he's at. I was really encouraged by how he's looking. I'd say arrow up all the way."
Stanley was arguably the best left tackle in the game before his first injury – a first-team All-Pro in 2019. His return would be a big boost to an offense that already ranks atop the NFL.
It would also be well-timed this week considering the Ravens are down to their fourth-string left tackle, rookie Daniel Faalele. Stanley said that does make him want to get on the field faster, but he's determined to stick to the plan.
"From what happened last year, we're taking the smarter approach and want to make sure that we're not doing something that's going to hurt us long-term throughout the season. I think we're doing it the right way," Stanley said.
"I think it's been a little frustrating just because I'm a competitor and I want to get out there. This being my second year coming off injury when I was pushing myself to be out there as early as I could, it has allowed me to be more patient mentally in understanding what it's going to take for me to go out there and not hurt something else and be out for the rest of the year again. That being said, I'm definitely in a very good place mentally."
Stanley said he spoke with NBA star Klay Thompson and former Ravens guard Marshal Yanda, who also both underwent major ankle surgeries, about what it would take to come back and staying patient. Stanley also said there was another procedure that he had after the Week 1 game in Las Vegas, "separate from the original surgery, that was a lower body major surgery."
But despite multiple surgeries, Stanley is confident that he can still be the same player he once was. He's moving very well on the practice field, and now it will be about transferring that to the game – whenever that happens.
"I am confident that I'm going to be the Ronnie Stanley that I know I can be," he said. "I still don't feel like I've played up to my full potential. For me, I still want to play that way."