Veteran tight end Boyle designated to return to Ravens practice

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens designated veteran tight end Nick Boyle to return to practice from injured reserve on Wednesday, an encouraging development after losing former Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley for the remainder of the season.

Sidelined from game action since suffering a serious left knee injury last Nov. 15, Boyle will now begin a maximum 21-day practice window in hopes of resuming his role as Baltimore’s top blocking tight end. The 28-year-old was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 30 and only practiced a couple times before landing on IR on Sept. 10. With the Ravens hosting Cincinnati on Sunday before their Week 8 bye, the most likely scenario for a return would be Week 10 against Minnesota or Week 11 at Miami.

“We’ll just have to see how he does in practice, but he seems strong,” head coach John Harbaugh said before Wednesday’s practice. “He’s been rehabbing out here really strong with the training staff and with the strength staff. I’ve seen him out here working for, really, months. It’ll be a good test today to see how it feels in a football practice even if it’s just the individual period. We’ll see what he can do out here today and probably have more for you going forward.”

A key cog in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s running game over the last few years, Boyle signed a two-year, $13 million contract extension through 2023 in late January, but his return to play has been slower than anticipated. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound tight end underwent a cleanup procedure in his surgically-repaired knee in June that sidelined him for all of training camp, and he wasn’t yet right when attempting to practice in early September.

In 73 career games, Boyle has caught 120 passes for 1,047 yards and four touchdowns, but the 2015 fifth-round pick from Delaware has earned the reputation for being one of the league’s top blocking tight ends.

“I think everybody on the team knows how much he wants to be out here playing,” said tight end Mark Andrews, who is one of Boyle’s closest friends on the team. “This means so much to him, playing here and playing with his guys. It means a lot, so for him to be able to be getting healthy and eventually coming out, that’s the type of guy we need.”