OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After an offseason of anticipating the returns of several key players coming off major 2021 injuries, the Ravens finally welcomed back running back J.K. Dobbins to the practice field on Monday.
The 2020 second-round pick who led all NFL running backs in yards per carry (6.0) during his rookie season was activated from the physically unable to perform list and practiced for the first time since suffering a torn ACL and other damage to his left knee in the 2021 preseason finale last Aug. 28. While receiving handshakes and embraces from the likes of owner Steve Bisciotti and team chaplain Johnny Shelton to countless teammates and coaches over his 90 minutes of on-field work — much of it on a side field — before going to the locker room, Dobbins took handoffs, caught some passes, and completed agility work during his limited participation.
“I thought he looked pretty good in individual — first day back,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He was out there in individual. You guys saw him moving around [and] running the ball-handling drill. That will be the first step. Maybe we add a little bit more every day and kind of see how he handles it and see how the knee responds. But it seems like it’s so far, so good.”
It’s no secret that Dobbins had been pushing hard to begin practicing, refuting a mid-July NFL Network report suggesting his Week 1 status was in doubt and drawing attention for his animated demeanor on the sideline during the first full-squad workout. The 23-year-old will now have nearly five weeks to show his knee is 100% and ready for the Sept. 11 opener against the New York Jets.
The Ohio State product easily has the highest ceiling of Baltimore’s running backs when fully healthy, but the Ravens will continue to take it slow in hopes of seeing his normal explosiveness sooner than later. Dobbins appeared poised for a breakout campaign a year ago after rushing for 495 yards and an impressive 6.4 yards per carry over his final six games of the 2020 regular season, making his unfortunate injury even more disappointing.
With fellow running back Gus Edwards well behind in returning from his own ACL injury, the Ravens will need the 5-foot-10, 212-pound Dobbins to lead the way for a position group that sorely lacked a true home run hitter last year.
“He’s been looking great. We’ve been working out here in the offseason too, and it’s his time,” said fourth-year running back Justice Hill, who’s shown promise returning from last year’s torn Achilles tendon. “He’s ready to come back and show what he can do. Coming off of an injury is a big thing for me, him, Gus. When we get out here, we just want to show that we’re good and ready to go.”
With Dobbins passing his physical and being activated, the Ravens still have five players on the active PUP list: Edwards, left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), cornerback Marcus Peters (knee), outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (Achilles tendon), and safety Ar’Darius Washington (foot). Second-round rookie outside linebacker David Ojabo remains sidelined indefinitely while recovering from an Achilles tear sustained the month before the draft.
On Monday, Baltimore also placed outside linebacker Vince Biegel (torn Achilles) on season-ending injured reserve and signed veteran cornerback Daryl Worley to the 90-man roster.