Often injured, two Ravens defensive linemen try to come back together

Ravens defensive end Brent Urban at rookie minicamp last year.
Ravens defensive end Brent Urban at rookie minicamp last year. (Shawn Hubbard / Baltimore Ravens)

The training room became a sanctuary of sorts for Ravens defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore over the past nine months.

It was a place for them to heal and strengthen their surgically repaired bodies, as well as to commiserate and bond over their shared hard luck. Being injured in the NFL can be a lonely, painful existence, one that can plunge players into isolation and self-doubt while they're unable to contribute to their team.


Sidelined last year after suffering major injuries during training camp in August, Urban and Lewis-Moore are back on the practice field and expected to be part of the Ravens' defensive line rotation this season.

"Me and Brent talk about everything a lot, for sure, because we've been through it all," said Lewis-Moore, a Texas native who underwent surgery last August after tearing his left Achilles tendon. "I saw Brent just about every day this offseason. We worked so hard together.


"We became real cool in the offseason. I was rooting for him. He was rooting for me. We wanted to see each other both get healthy."

Said Urban: "It was definitely a bonding experience for us."

'They're going to ... contribute'

Urban tore the ACL in his right knee in August when he was blocked to the ground by offensive tackle Jah Reid. He did not appear to hesitate when lined up against Reid this month during organized team activities, and burst through him to get across the line of scrimmage.

"Of course, I'm going to go against Jah, and it's not a big deal for me," said Urban, who tore his left ACL as a redshirt freshman in college. "Injuries happen, but I just try to block that stuff out and remain positive about my past.

"My knee feels really good. I should be on the field chasing down plays by now, and I already am. I'm happy with my progress so far."

Selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft last year out of Virginia, the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Canadian was projected to receive significant playing time working behind starting defensive end Chris Canty. This year, Urban is expected to work in tandem with Canty.

"He has practiced really well, Brent has, and so has Kapron," coach John Harbaugh said. "They both look like they're 100 percent as far as the way they're moving around, and they look like they're going to be able to contribute for us."

Urban, though, built up a lot of aggression over the past year while he was on the shelf. Harbaugh sent him to the sideline to calm down after he ventured too close to quarterback Joe Flacco during team drills this month.

A late bloomer who grew up in the Toronto area and played junior-league hockey until he was 16 years old, Urban started 20 games during his final two seasons at Virginia. He finished his college career with 75 tackles, three sacks and a blocked kick.

Urban aggravated a high-ankle sprain during the Senior Bowl that he initially suffered against Maryland as a senior, and the injury prevented him from participating in the NFL scouting combine after he underwent surgery. The ankle injury lingered into offseason practices.

"I feel a lot stronger than last year," Urban said. "Coming in with an ankle injury, I wasn't able to lift with my lower body. I feel really good coming into this season.


"Once you get these types of surgeries, they're actually stronger than before. I'm not too concerned about it. I've literally been here since last year at camp. That's why I feel so confident in my knee."

'Do I really want to do this again?'

Meanwhile, Lewis-Moore's patience has been seriously tested over the past few years.

He was regarded as one of the top defensive line prospects in the nation before his series of knee injuries. Lewis-Moore had 40 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles as a senior for Notre Dame before getting hurt again in his final college game, against Alabama.

Drafted in the sixth round in 2013, he tore his right ACL against Alabama in the BCS national title game two years ago. He detached his right MCL the previous season against USC.

Lewis-Moore spent his rookie season on the reserve nonfootball injury list. Last year, his frustration reached a new high when he tore his Achilles during a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers.

Lewis-Moore screamed in agony and was in tears while being carted off the field at the Ravens' training complex. He briefly contemplated whether he still wanted to play football.

"To be honest with you, I'm not going to lie, when I got hurt, I definitely questioned, 'Do I really want to do this again?' " Lewis-Moore said. "I was very upset with everything, but that's natural. My mom talked some sense into me.

"I've been through a lot of adversity before, and adversity just makes you a stronger individual. The Ravens drafted me for a reason. It's my time. I appreciate the Ravens for sticking with me. I still want to show them why they drafted me."

Lewis-Moore had his damaged Achilles repaired surgically by Dr. Robert Anderson, the Carolina Panthers' team doctor and a renowned orthopedic surgeon in Charlotte, N.C. Anderson had used his less invasive surgical techniques on Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to help the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year get back on the field in 2012, just five months after partially tearing his Achilles.

"I feel good, but it's been the same story every year with me getting hurt," Lewis-Moore said. "You know what I'm saying? This is a make-or-break year for me. I'm just happy to be back out there again. I feel pretty good. Obviously, there's a little rust. It's been nine, 10 months since I've played, and I'm still knocking the rust off.

"The more reps I get in practice, the more I'm getting my timing down. I feel confident. I'm not hesitant at all. I'm just waiting for my explosiveness to get all the way back. They say that's the last thing to come back."

He is banking on this being the season when he can finally remain healthy and fulfill his potential. The Ravens have plugged in Timmy Jernigan as the replacement for the traded Haloti Ngata. They re-signed Canty and defensive end Lawrence Guy. And they now have Urban and Lewis-Moore back on the field.

"They say the third time's the charm," Lewis-Moore said. "This year, I think everything is going to take care of itself. I trust my Achilles completely now. You don't know why you get hurt.

"It could be just God testing me. I just try to go out there and play hard and be the best player I can be. I'm praying nothing bad happens again and I'm feeling confident about everything."


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