The path from the sideline to the Ravens' locker room became well-traveled Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium as several injured players trudged inside to be evaluated by team doctors.
The Ravens had several key players go down with injuries Sunday, which triggered a mounting personnel issue that was among the major factors in the 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith was carted off the field with a sprained left foot in the first half and missed the rest of the game and is now set to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine the severity of the injury, according to a source. With Smith out, backup Dominique Franks was beaten badly in the fourth quarter on a 53-yard catch by wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
His safety help, rookie Terrence Brooks, got spun around and couldn't make a play on the football. The reception led to Andy Dalton's game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak on fourth down.
"One play doesn't cost us the game, it's just a learning experience," Franks said. "We preach every week, 'Don't give up big plays.' We didn't accomplish that.
"It's not tough at all [dealing with injuries]. The way this organization is run, and the way that we practice, we're built for things like that [Smith getting hurt] to happen. It's sad to see Jimmy go down, but I had to step up and other guys had to step up."
Wide receiver Torrey Smith left in the second half to be evaluated for a potential concussion. A pass intended for Smith was intercepted after he got knocked off the route. That led to a field goal. Smith was cleared under the NFL concussion protocol and went back into the game.
"We had a slant and drag over there, I saw it open up for the slant, and I threw it in there," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "And the next thing you know, [Bengals cornerback Adam Jones] was standing there with the ball right there in his chest. I thought he might have run into someone or Pacman hit him."
Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro left the game in the first half with a strained hamstring just when the River Hill graduate was starting to establish himself as a threat over the middle with three catches for 40 yards.
Beyond those injuries, the offensive line was in flux during the first half when guards Marshal Yanda (knee) and Kelechi Osemele (eye) left the game briefly with injuries and left tackle Eugene Monroe was rested for a series in his first game back from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Determining approximately how much of an impact the injuries played in the loss is immeasurable, but it clearly took its toll.
"I don't have a measurement on that, everybody's got injuries," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Our guys played hard, they played through it."
The Ravens clearly missed Campanaro's presence as a slot receiver when he got hurt. They were already dealing with two-time Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels' absence. He had arthroscopic knee surgery days before kickoff.
The Ravens gained only 294 yards of total offense, had 18 first downs and converted just 5 of 13 third downs. Flacco was sacked once and hit three times.
"A lot of the backup guys did a great job coming in and doing their job, Franks and receivers came in and did their job," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "That's what football is all about. You have injuries, so guys step up."
Harbaugh acknowledged that having so many players shuttling in and out of the game probably affected the rhythm and chemistry.
"I think it's fair," Harbaugh said. "I thought we did a good job for the most part. We didn't always make all the plays we could have or we weren't at our best all of the time. The interception on Torrey's thing was as freaky as you can get. Football is tough."
Without Jimmy Smith in the lineup, Sanu caught five passes for 125 yards.
"Somebody's got to step up when a big player like Jimmy goes down," said strong safety Matt Elam, who ripped the football away from Sanu on a pass intercepted by rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. "I feel like we did all right in the back end, except for the last couple of plays. I'm not going to point the finger. The next man has to step up."