Sunday, October 2, 2022

Ravens activate Stanley, place Bowser on reserve-PUP list for start of regular season

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

The Ravens announced good news and bad news just over 24 hours before their preseason finale with the activation of left tackle Ronnie Stanley and the placement of outside linebacker Tyus Bowser on the reserve-physically unable to perform list.

Having passed his physical to be activated from the PUP list, Stanley may now begin practicing for the first time since last September, but Bowser will miss at least the first four games of the 2022 season, putting a thin outside linebacker group in even worse shape for the time being. With Stanley 10 months removed from his most recent surgery on his left ankle, the question now becomes whether the 2019 All-Pro left tackle will have enough time to be ready for the Sept. 11 opener against the New York Jets, a timeline that will be very tight even if his ankle responds well to its first football activity in nearly a year.

Last summer, Stanley began practicing on Aug. 9 and admitted to potentially rushing too quickly to get ready for the 2021 opener in Las Vegas, the only game in which he played before ultimately going on season-ending injured reserve a few weeks later. Of course, the Ravens are hoping his ankle is in much stronger shape now after he clearly wasn’t right returning from the original injury sustained on Nov. 1, 2020, just two days after Stanley signed a five-year, $98.75 million contract extension through the 2025 season.

Those realities would seem to make a Week 1 return very ambitious, but coming off the active-PUP list is still an encouraging step for the man entrusted to protect the blindside of star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Of course, Stanley returning to pre-injury form — or as close to it as possible — is the real objective.

“I’m going to say that I’d like to see them out there [practicing] for three weeks. Now, is that going to be possible for Week 1? Will they be ready? Will that be enough?” said head coach John Harbaugh about Stanley and Bowser earlier this week. “Ronnie and Tyus have both gone really hard with the conditioning. I watched Ronnie out here before practice with the trainer. He looks like he’s in really good shape, and Tyus looks like he’s in really good shape. Could you speed [the return to game action] up a little bit if they look really great at practice? You probably could.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes and see how they feel. A lot of it is how the player feels at that point.”

Should Stanley not be ready for Week 1, the Ravens would likely turn to veteran Ja’Wuan James, who has lined up as the first-team left tackle all summer. The versatile Patrick Mekari and starting right tackle Morgan Moses are also options for the position.

Bowser suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the 2021 finale against Pittsburgh on Jan. 9, which led to a shorter recovery timetable for the sixth-year edge defender to be ready for the start of this season. Optimism for his Week 1 status seemingly began to diminish early in training camp when Harbaugh was asked if Bowser — who’s earned a reputation for being a very hard worker — was trying to hurry his return to the practice field.

“Sometimes he is, sometimes he’s not. But the thing about Tyus is that he’s so conscientious,” Harbaugh said on Aug. 4. “He wants to be perfect, and that’s what you appreciate. He’s kind of on that same thing. We don’t have to have him back right now, so let’s just keep letting him get stronger for now.”

Asked about his status after the Aug. 11 preseason opener, Bowser was noncommittal in telling reporters, “Whenever I’m ready, I’m ready.” The Ravens must now be ready at outside linebacker without the 27-year-old who successfully replaced Pro Bowl selection Matthew Judon as the starting Sam linebacker last season. While much of the discussion will continue to center around Baltimore’s pass rush, Bowser’s unique skill set of setting the edge against the run, getting after the quarterback, and dropping into pass coverage effectively won’t be easily replaced early in the season.

With Bowser out until at least the Week 5 clash with Cincinnati on Oct. 9 and rookie second-round pick David Ojabo (Achilles) not expected to be an option until later this fall, the Ravens must cobble together an outside linebacker rotation short on acclaim beyond 2021 first-round pick Odafe Oweh and the 33-year-old Justin Houston, who was expected to be more of a situational rusher in his 12th season. Beyond those two, the Ravens currently have 31-year-old journeyman Steven Means, unproven 2021 fifth-round pick Daelin Hayes, and rookie free agents Jeremiah Moon and Chuck Wiley on their 80-man preseason roster. The Ravens lost two other veteran options — Vince Biegel and Trent Harris — to injured reserve earlier this month, and Hayes has missed practices with an undisclosed injury this week.

In other words, general manager Eric DeCosta will surely continue working the phones for external help while new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald hopes to see positive developments in Saturday’s exhibition against Washington.

“You can do the math on who else we have at that position. What I would say is that there’s still competition to be had,” Macdonald said Wednesday. “That’s part of the reason that we’re in it this week, and this practice is important. Going through the Washington game, that’s going to be important. I think you can provide some flexibility with some other position groups too to kind of fill the void if we need it at some points.”

One individual fitting that description would be third-year inside linebacker Malik Harrison, who began cross-training as an edge defender last season. The problem is that the Ravens are also short on inside linebacker depth behind starters Patrick Queen and Josh Bynes.

With an open roster spot after placing Bowser on the reserve-PUP list on Friday, Baltimore signed punter Cameron Dicker, which was likely done to ease the workload of kicker Justin Tucker and rookie punter Jordan Stout in the preseason finale.

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