When the Ravens opened up training camp almost two weeks ago with their first official practice, Dobbins was on the field with his jersey on, pleading his case to be allowed to participate even though he had been placed on the physically unable to perform list a few days earlier. He stalked up and down the sideline with veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston and eventually general manager Eric DeCosta trying to calm him down.
It’s probably no coincidence that he hadn’t been on the field since, at least not during times when reporters were allowed to observe practice. That changed Monday, when the Ravens returned from a day off and had their projected starting running back on the field.
After he passed his physical and was activated from the PUP List, Dobbins took part in his first practice since he tore the ACL in his left knee in the Ravens’ 2021 preseason finale against Washington. The third-year back stayed on the field for nearly 90 minutes, taking part in individual drills and then going through a workout in front of members of the team’s strength and conditioning and athletic training staff. Dobbins left the field just before 3 p.m., shaking hands with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome before heading inside.
“I thought he looked pretty good in individual (drills). First day back,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You guys saw him moving around, running the ball-handling drill. That will be the first step. Maybe we add a little bit more everyday and kind of see how he handles it, and see how the knee responds. But it seems like it’s so far so good.”
Dobbins labored at times through the workout, but that was expected for a player who has been sidelined since the 2021 season-ending knee injury occurred Aug. 28. The former Ohio State standout seemed to understand the significance of the moment. At one point as he jogged to another field for a different drill, Dobbins and team chaplain Johnny Shelton embraced in prayer.
Dobbins still has physical hurdles that he’ll have to clear. However, his return to the field was a welcome development for the Ravens, and it gives him almost five weeks to get ready for the team’s Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the New York Jets.
“There’s a great plan with the doctors and the trainers going forward, so we’re just going to follow that,” running back coach Craig Ver Steeg said. “We’re going to add a little bit each day and see how it goes. But, as you know, J.K. has been chomping at the bit, and I have, too. It was just a good day to get started.”
The hope is that Dobbins, a 2020 second-round pick who had 925 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, will lead a backfield that probably won’t include Gus Edwards early in the season. Edwards is also recovering from a major injury, and he’s considered a long shot to be ready for Week 1.
The Ravens still hopeful on Ronnie Stanley, Marcus Peters and Tyus Bowser coming off PUP and being ready to start season. But Dobbins was a bit ahead of the pack. Fellow RB Gus Edwards is the furthest away and is probably doubtful for Week 1. https://t.co/ODzP94l7dh
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) August 8, 2022
Justin Tucker was talking to Harbaugh at a recent practice when the topic of the kicker’s contract came up. Tucker was already signed for two more years, but he told Harbaugh that if the team was interested in extending him further, the contract negotiations would probably only take about five minutes. Tucker wants to be in Baltimore, and the Ravens know what they have in the NFL’s most accurate kicker.
About an hour before Monday’s practice, the team announced that it signed Tucker to a four-year contract extension that extends through the 2027 season and again makes the long-time Raven the highest-paid kicker in the NFL. The four-year extension is for $24 million and includes $17.5 million in guaranteed money.
“That’s not necessarily at the top of my priority list, as far as getting the deal done,” Tucker said of being the NFL’s highest-paid kicker. “Now, it certainly has a nice ring to it. I’m not going to deny that. But what was and continues to be most important to me is just being in the plans for building a championship (team) and feeling valued as a part of that process. Listen, this deal, for sure, checks all the boxes for me, and for all intents and purposes, this is the type of deal that will more than ensure that I will be a Raven for life. And for that alone, I couldn’t be happier.”
Linderbaum remains sidelined
Harbaugh said Monday that rookie first-round center Tyler Linderbaum is dealing with an injury to a ligament in his left foot, but he doesn’t believe it to be a Lisfranc sprain.
“It’s a different ligament,” Harbaugh said. “He’s had the Lisfranc before. There’s no separation, there’s no Lisfranc sprain, per se. That’s my understanding. I’m not a doctor, but I play one in press conferences, as you know. But that’s what I was told.”
Harbaugh said nothing has changed with Linderbaum’s timeline to return. He’s previously indicated that Linderbaum will be out one or two weeks.
“Not a serious thing, but we want it to be right and healed,” Harbaugh said.
Observations from Monday’s practice
• The Ravens got two key offensive pieces back to practice with the return of Dobbins and Rashod Bateman, but they also had a handful of absences. Not practicing were undrafted rookie receiver Devon Williams, tight end Charlie Kolar (hernia), offensive linemen Linderbaum (foot) and David Sharpe and defensive backs Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Stephens and Tony Jefferson.
• Veteran cornerback Daryl Worley signed with the team a day after a workout and immediately was thrust into full-team drills. Worley, a seven-year pro who played one game with the Ravens last year, gives the Ravens another body at cornerback, where they are hurting for depth ahead of Thursday’s preseason opener against the Titans. With Humphrey, Stephens and Marcus Peters not practicing and all unlikely to play Thursday, and rookie Jalyn Armour-Davis seemingly limited in Monday’s session, the Ravens were getting extremely low on corners. Harbaugh acknowledged last Saturday that the Ravens are leaning on their healthy corners for more repetitions than they’d prefer at this point of the summer.
• All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews took part in certain sessions of Monday’s practice, but he was on the sideline for the team drills. Harbaugh said late last week that they’d like to lighten Andrews’ workload a little bit.
• Wide receiver Bailey Gaither walked to the locker room after the special teams portion of practice. He spent a few minutes trying to get stretched out before heading inside.
• On the second play of full-team drills, Odafe Oweh beat Ja’Wuan James and touched down Lamar Jackson for a safety. That was part of an extremely active day for Oweh and Houston, who gave the Ravens tackles fits. Two plays later, the offense finally got out of the shadow of the end zone as Jackson connected with Proche. Jackson threw the ball before Proche even got out of his route, and it turned into a nice gain.
• Undrafted rookie corner Denzel Williams delivered one of the biggest hits of the day, shoving Makai Polk to the ground. Polk left his feet after catching a ball on a crossing route and left himself vulnerable. Williams also unintentionally dished out some punishment to Devin Duvernay, poking the receiver in the eye while the two were matched up one-on-one. Duvernay missed a few plays to get treatment, but returned to the field.
• Ravens first-round safety Kyle Hamilton had his first interception of training camp, getting good position on wide receiver Shemar Bridges and elevating to haul in a Tyler Huntley pass. Hamilton had a long return, cutting across the field before he was taken down by receiver Jaylon Moore. It was part of a strong practice for Hamilton, who also got the best of rookie tight end Isaiah Likely in the resumption of their training camp matchups in one-on-one periods. In their three reps against each other, Hamilton had two pass breakups and Likely had a drop. Hamilton did get away with a little bit of a tug of Likely’s jersey on one of the breakups.
• Other highlights of one-on-ones between receivers and defensive backs: Proche caught two deep passes against Kyle Fuller, who was in a really good position on both. Rookie cornerback Damarion Williams broke up a pass for Wallace in their first matchup, but he was beaten inside by the second-year receiver on their second. With Humphrey sidelined, safety Chuck Clark stepped in against Bateman and the result was an incompletion on a poorly thrown ball. Bateman went against Kevon Seymour on his next rep, and Seymour was all over the receiver, forcing an incompletion. Undrafted receiver Slade Bolden had the catch of the session with a one-handed snag with cornerback David Vereen draped all over him.
• Vereen, though, continues to make one or two notable plays every practice. The undrafted rookie out of Newberry went up high to deny Bateman of a deep catch in full-team drills. Vereen, Seymour and Denzel Williams have all had very strong training camps for the Ravens. The Ravens almost certainly won’t have room for all three, but they’d probably be pleased to keep one and get the other two back on the practice squad.
• Rookie third-round pick Travis Jones again flashed in one-on-one pass rush drills, pushing back guard Ben Powers. Aaron Crawford also showed off a powerful bull rush on center Jimmy Murray. Morgan Moses and Kevin Zeitler handled Houston and Justin Madubuike, respectively.
• It was a sluggish day for the offense, but Jackson and company got going in a two-minute situation. Jackson completed six-of-seven passing attempts to put Tucker in position to convert a 42-yard field goal. Jackson connected with Bateman, Duvernay, Nick Boyle, Proche, Hill and Wallace with the one incompletion essentially amounting to a throw away because Damarion Williams was all over Bateman. The highlight of the session was Jackson hitting Hill for a big gain on a wheel route over the head of middle linebacker Josh Bynes.
• Bynes, by the way, was among several players who struggled with Monday’s heat and humidity. At one point of practice, Bynes went down to his knees on the field and appeared to be getting sick. Mike Davis also struggled with cramping.
• Rookie punter Jordan Stout, who also kicked at Penn State, went 2-or-3 on field-goal attempts during the practice. With Proche holding, Stout hit from 36 and 39 yards and was wide right from 39 yards.
• Defensive end Calais Campbell had a dominant practice. He deflected three passes and met Clement in the hole for a tackle for loss.
• Jackson missed an open Bateman on a deep ball, overthrowing him by a couple of yards. A few plays later, Jackson made one of his best throws of the afternoon, dropping it into Proche who was streaking down the middle of the field. Proche was crunched by Hamilton, but held onto the ball.
• James had to run a lap after committing a false start penalty. Tight end Tony Poljan was also sent on a lap, with Jackson signaling him to get moving, after he was flagged for a pre-snap penalty.
• The offense officially won the practice, at least in the scoring system the Ravens use, with a long completion to Poljan on the day’s final play. Rookie left tackle Daniel Faalele raised his arms in triumph as the scoreboard showed a 42-41 victory by the offense.
• After practice, the rookies did a wet ball fumble recovery drill. Veterans, including Jackson, Clark, Campbell and Zeitler, took turns spraying rookies with a hose as they ran down a wet and narrow patch of grass and tried to jump on a loose football.
(Photo of J.K. Dobbins: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)