Ravens left tackle Stanley undergoes season-ending surgery on troublesome ankle

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Less than 24 hours after head coach John Harbaugh indicated a resolution was coming for the injured Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens announced the former Pro Bowl left tackle would miss the rest of the 2021 season.

On Tuesday, Stanley was placed on injured reserve and underwent another surgery on his left ankle injured last Nov. 1, a disappointing development for a red-hot 5-1 team looking more and more like a serious Super Bowl contender.

“This is not what I wanted or expected when coming into the season,” Stanley said in a statement released by the Ravens. “Throughout the last year, I did everything I could to be 100% healthy so I could be out there playing for our team and city. As a competitor, I have a mindset of sacrificing my body for my brothers and my team to reach our goals.

“At this point in time, my ankle isn’t where it should be. This is the best decision not only for my health, but also for the team long term. I look forward to supporting my team from the sideline this season and coming back fully healthy in 2022.”

In March, Harbaugh revealed Stanley, 27, had undergone two surgeries on the ankle, but the sixth-year offensive lineman returned to make his 2021 training camp practice debut on Aug. 9, which kept him on track to play in the season opener at Las Vegas on Sept. 13. Despite playing all 68 offensive snaps in that 33-27 overtime loss to the Raiders, Stanley struggled through arguably the worst game of his career and was charged with surrendering eight hurries and a quarterback hit by Pro Football Focus. He had been deactivated for each of the last five games.

With the Ravens showing little transparency regarding Stanley’s status over the last month, it’s uncertain if he sustained any sort of re-injury or the surgically-repaired ankle simply hadn’t responded favorably to the return to football. Either way, Tuesday’s announcement was a concerning development for a star player who signed a five-year, $98.5 million contract extension two days before suffering the major injury. The question now becomes whether the 2016 first-round pick from Notre Dame will regain the pre-injury form that made him quite possibly the best left tackle in the NFL after the Ravens had cycled through numerous left tackles in the years following the retirement of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden in 2008.

https://twitter.com/megatronnie/status/1450636821726220290

While you’re glad for Stanley to have cashed in before suffering the serious injury, the deal has brought rotten luck for the Ravens, who were making a long-term investment in a left tackle who had started 63 games and missed only nine in his pro career at the time of the signing. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle has played just 89 regular-season snaps since the injury.

Expecting Stanley to return to full strength for 2021, general manager Eric DeCosta traded two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City and signed veteran offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva to take his place at right tackle in the offseason. Instead, the Ravens were forced to call an audible by shifting Villanueva to left tackle — the position he played for six seasons in Pittsburgh — and inserting utility offensive lineman Patrick Mekari at right tackle. For the most part, the two have held up well over the course of a five-game winning streak that’s given Baltimore the best record in the AFC, but that alignment certainly doesn’t bring the same upside as a healthy Stanley protecting star quarterback Lamar Jackson’s blindside.

On Monday, Harbaugh said the play of Villanueva and Mekari was “phenomenal” in the 34-6 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6.

“Both of our tackles, Alejandro and Patrick, were great, both run and pass,” Harbaugh said. “They pretty much neutralized their pass rush, so I’m just proud of those guys.”

In other offensive line roster news, the Ravens claimed offensive tackle Brandon Knight off waivers from Dallas on Monday and signed veteran guard James Carpenter to their practice squad.