The Ravens, who earned the benefits of a bye week, entered the NFL playoffs relatively healthy, with the two biggest question marks at the moment being inside linebackers Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo, who were listed on the injury report as having limited participation in Thursday’s practice.
As far as position groups go, the inside linebackers have been nicked up this season more than maybe any other group on the team. Ray Lewis missed four consecutive games with a toe injury before returning in December. Dannell Ellerbe sat out seven total games because of a thigh injury and then a concussion sustained in Week 16. McClain, who is dealing with a knee injury, has played in all 16 games, but has battled through that injury and issues with his shoulder. And while Ayanbadejo, who has a quadriceps injury, hasn’t missed a game, he suffered a concussion in November.
Despite those four players' being shuffled in and out of the lineup and on and off the field in games, the Ravens had the NFL’s second-ranked rush defense and were No. 3 in total defense.
“It doesn’t really matter who is in the lineup,” said Ellerbe, who was cleared to resume contact Tuesday and practiced the past two days. “Everybody is going to have to go in. That’s the job. You’ve got to go in and do your job. We pretty much have the confidence to put anybody in there. Whoever is missing from the lineup, we plug someone in and they will be ready to go.”
But often being the guy who was missing from the lineup on Sundays didn’t sit well with Ellerbe.
“It’s always tough to sit out games and watch your teammates play,” he said. “You want to be out there helping the team, especially in a big game like it was [against the Cincinnati Bengals]. It killed me to sit on the sidelines, but it was something I had to do. I wasn’t ready to play.”