Ravens hopeful on Peters, won’t have Koch for first time in 15 years

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Preparing to play without their longest-tenured player in a must-win Week 17 trip to Cincinnati, the Ravens hope to welcome back two of their top three cornerbacks to help clinch a playoff spot.

Head coach John Harbaugh expects Sam Koch to miss the first game of his 15-year NFL career after the longtime punter was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list on Wednesday, but veteran cornerbacks Marcus Peters (calf) and Jimmy Smith (shoulder) were both listed as questionable on the final injury report after participating in multiple practices this week. Peters practiced all week and was a full participant on Thursday and Friday while Smith returned only on a limited basis for the final two workouts of the week, leaving the latter’s status in greater doubt.

Smith has been plagued by injuries for much of the second half of the season, but Peters had played in at least 93 percent of defensive snaps in each of the first 13 games of 2020 before hurting his calf late in the Week 14 win at Cleveland. Regardless of Smith’s status, the Ravens hope to have Peters, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, back on the field opposite 2020 Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

“It’s good to see him out there. We’ll just see how it plays out,” Harbaugh said. “These things are always just how you respond the next day to the workload and things like that, but having him out at practice is obviously important. It’s a big step, and I feel very good about that.”

Peters and Smith were among the 10 Baltimore players officially listed as questionable to play against the Bengals, but edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue (thigh), center Patrick Mekari (back), and wide receiver Willie Snead (ankle) appear to be the biggest concerns. All three left last Sunday’s win over the New York Giants early and missed the entire practice week, which doesn’t bode well for a player’s status.

Should Mekari not be able to play, veteran Matt Skura would likely start at center, but rookie Trystan Colon-Castillo would also be active on game day. That could be a factor if Skura continues to struggle with shotgun snaps as we saw once again in Week 16.

Running back Gus Edwards (back) and right tackle D.J. Fluker (knee) were designated as questionable after being added to Friday’s injury report as limited participants, making their status worth monitoring over the weekend. Humphrey (knee/shoulder) and six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) were also officially listed as questionable, but both were full practice participants by week’s end, all but eliminating any real concerns about their availability.

Asked about the Ravens’ punting situation, Harbaugh didn’t want to specify whether Koch had indeed tested positive and avoided discussing specifics, but he said the Ravens “do not expect him to be out beyond Sunday,” would be good news for the first round of the playoffs. On Thursday, the Ravens signed punter Johnny Townsend off Kansas City’s practice squad. Townsend, 25, spent part of training camp with Baltimore and is expected to handle Koch’s usual responsibilities.

“We have a very good understanding of how he operates as a punter and a holder,” Harbaugh said. “Also, he knows what we like, what we want to do and understands our operation. We’re very happy to have him. He had a good day today in practice, and I expect him to do very well in the game.”

The Bengals didn’t list wide receivers Tyler Boyd (concussion) and Tee Higgins (hamstring) with a game status after both practiced fully on Friday. However, top cornerback William Jackson III has been declared out with a concussion.

Below is the final injury report for Week 17:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: DE Calais Campbell (calf), RB Gus Edwards (back), OT D.J. Fluker (knee), CB Marlon Humphrey (knee/shoulder), RB Mark Ingram (illness), C Patrick Mekari (back), DE Yannick Ngakoue (thigh), CB Marcus Peters (calf), CB Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder), WR Willie Snead (ankle),

CINCINNATI
OUT: C B.J. Finney (abdomen), CB William Jackson III (concussion), LB Logan Wilson (ankle)