OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having struggled in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations early in the 2022 season, the Ravens could soon have help on the way in the form of running back Gus Edwards.
Sidelined since suffering a torn ACL days before the start of the 2021 campaign 13 months ago, the 27-year-old is set to return to the practice field this week, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Edwards is on the physically unable to perform list, which required him to sit out a minimum of four games. He will enter a 21-day practice window before the Ravens must place him on the 53-man roster or leave him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season, but Edwards would be permitted to be activated at any point during the 21-day period.
Considering the nature of his knee injury and an extended layoff from football activity, Edwards would figure to need a practice ramp-up of at least a couple weeks before becoming an option for game action. The 238-pound Edwards was widely regarded as one of the best short-yardage backs in the NFL when he averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry and rushed for more than 700 yards in three straight seasons before suffering a major knee injury during the same practice three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters sustained his own ACL tear on Sept. 9, 2021.
According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens rank 24th in efficiency in second-and-short situations, 22nd in third- and fourth-and-short scenarios, and 23rd in goal-to-go situations through the first four weeks of the 2022 campaign.
Harbaugh announced Edwards’ return to practice the day after fourth-year running back Justice Hill hurt his hamstring in the fourth quarter of the 23-20 loss to Buffalo. Hill, 24, has been Baltimore’s most successful running back so far this season, rushing for 125 yards and averaging 6.6 yards per carry while catching all four of his targets for 19 yards.
“I think we dodged a bullet on that. It’s not a serious hamstring [injury],” Harbaugh said. “That doesn’t mean he won’t be out for a little bit, but it’s not going to be one of those long-term hamstrings, they say. I always take that with a little bit of a grain of salt, but good news on that front.”
Hill wasn’t the only Ravens player dealing with a health concern coming out of the Week 4 loss to the Bills as Harbaugh confirmed wide receiver Rashod Bateman sustained “a foot injury, a mid-foot little deal” that sidelined him for much of the second half on Sunday. The 2021 first-round pick played a season-low 44% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps and caught three passes for 17 yards.
He was spotted leaving the stadium with a walking boot on his left foot on Sunday.
“I don’t think it’s serious, but we’re going to have to see,” Harbaugh said. “He told me today he’s kind of day to day, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Edwards may not be the only Baltimore player on the PUP list to begin practicing this week as Harbaugh suggested outside linebacker Tyus Bowser could begin his own 21-day window. Despite suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the 2021 season finale on Jan. 9, Bowser was regarded as being in a good place in his recovery before training camp with there even being some optimism that he could be ready for the start of the season.
In the end, the parties remained cautious with the big picture in mind. Bowser’s return would be a significant boost for a thin outside linebacker position that leaned on veteran newcomer Jason Pierre-Paul to play 55 snaps less than a week after signing with the Ravens.
“Tyus is really close. Again, it’s really in Tyus’s court. We’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’ll be out there [practicing] to some degree for sure. I don’t know exactly what degree. I’m not necessarily planning on him for the [Cincinnati] game unless something changes, some conversation changes.”