Dobbins begins practicing while Ravens say Bowser’s “agitated” knee showing improvement

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After plenty of questions surrounding his status entering training camp, Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins finally made his summer debut on Monday.

Activated from the physically unable to perform list, the 2020 second-round pick was a limited participant in a workout that amounted to little more than a walk-through before the start of joint practices with the Washington Commanders on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one has said publicly why Dobbins wasn’t practicing over the first three weeks of camp, leading most observers to conclude his on-field absence was a “hold-in” rather than any kind of tangible injury as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. It’s hardly a secret that the 24-year-old is seeking more lucrative compensation than the $1.391 million base salary he’s set to make this season.

“It feels good to have him back here on the field. He’s excited. We’re all excited,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll probably ramp him up a little bit this week and work him in there and try to be smart in how we do it, but he’ll be fine. He’s 100% healthy. He looks good. He’s been training hard, so he’s ready to go.”

Dobbins has averaged an impressive 5.9 yards per carry in his brief NFL career, but he’s played in just 26 of a possible 53 games — including the postseason — over his three-year run in Baltimore due to a serious knee injury suffered in the 2021 preseason finale. He missed nine games last year, but he returned from in-season arthroscopic knee surgery in December to play his best football down the stretch, rushing for 457 yards and averaging 6.56 yards per carry over his final five contests.

It remains unclear whether any progress has been made between Dobbins and general manager Eric DeCosta on a potential contract extension, and Harbaugh said he wasn’t sure why the Ohio State product chose Monday to begin practicing. If Dobbins’ most realistic goal in sitting out was to simply mitigate some injury risk in the early days of camp, he still has four weeks of practice to be ready for the season opener against Houston on Sept. 10. Given the tepid market for even more accomplished running backs, it was obvious from the start that a “hold-in” wasn’t going to result in a new contract for Dobbins.

“It worked out for whatever reasons it worked out,” said Harbaugh about his Monday return. “I’m just trying not to look at it too deeply and be grateful.”

Bowser still sidelined

With Dobbins returning, the only notable Ravens player still dealing with a physical concern that preceded the start of camp is starting outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, who remains on the active non-football injury list.

Though believed to be fully recovered from the torn Achilles tendon that cost him the first eight games of the 2022 season, Bowser was a very limited participant during mandatory minicamp in June and hasn’t seen the practice field since then because of a right knee problem. The clock is ticking for the 28-year-old to have sufficient practice time to be ready for Week 1, but Harbaugh isn’t concerned about his availability for the opener just yet.

“It hasn’t come to that point. They feel good about it, and it’s an agitated knee,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not really anything to say about it than that. They are being cautious, I will say. They did say today [that] his knee looked the best that it’s looked [when it comes to] swelling, things like that. I know he’ll be back for the season, but I know — as well as you can know — there’s not a serious problem in there. It’s just getting right for him to play at his highest level.”

The uncertainty surrounding Bowser’s has done nothing to quell concerns about an outside linebacker position where the Ravens are already counting heavily on less proven options such as Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo, and rookie fourth-round pick Tavius Robinson.

Secondary updates

Secondary depth remains a significant concern with four cornerbacks missing Saturday’s preseason opener due to injuries and none of them returning to the field on Monday.

Harbaugh said starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (knee) is projected to resume practicing “pretty soon” while Jalyn Armour-Davis and Arthur Maulet (hamstring) are both “very close” to making their respective returns. However, the news wasn’t as positive for second-year slot cornerback Damarion Williams, who will undergo another surgery on his ankle after having one earlier this year. Williams now appears likely to begin the season on injured reserve.

“It’ll be early season — October, maybe something like that. He’ll be back,” Harbaugh said. “What happened is, the screw in there, it caused the bone to crack a little bit — the screw that was in the surgery — and that’s something that does happen sometimes.”

With so little depth even for practices at the moment and not wanting to overwork their healthy players, the Ravens claimed cornerback Tae Hayes off waivers from Detroit over the weekend and signed veteran defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson on Monday.

Preseason opener injuries

Harbaugh confirmed backup quarterback Tyler Huntley suffered a minor hamstring strain in Saturday’s win over Philadelphia.

“We’ll be cautious with that a for a little while here. We’re not going to be in a hurry with that one either,” Harbaugh said. “The thing about the hamstring is you don’t want to redo it. You don’t want to reinjure it. We really have been really cautious with the hamstrings of late, [and] we’ll probably continue that trend.”  

Wide receiver James Proche sustained a contusion in the area of the “hip, back, buttocks” and is expected to return later this week, according to Harbaugh.

Tight end Isaiah Likely also missed Monday’s practice after exiting Saturday’s game with an undisclosed ailment, but he was back on the sideline to watch the second half.

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