Ravens' coach John Harbaugh comments on defensive end Bronson Kaufusi breaking his ankle at training camp. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun video)
A running play outside of the full contact portion of training camp practice Thursday ended with rookie defensive end Bronson Kaufusi sustaining a broken left ankle, an injury that will end his season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Kaufusi, a third-round pick out of BYU who was expected to earn a role this summer in the Ravens' defensive line rotation, slipped to the ground and one of his teammates came down on him. Kaufusi (pronounced Caw-Foo-See), immediately clutched his leg, prompting reserve offensive lineman De'Ondre Wesley to call for the athletic training staff to tend to his teammate.
"I'm not happy," Harbaugh said following Thursday's workout. "You try and avoid that. You do everything you can to keep players off the ground but sometimes guys fall. That's what happened to Bronson."
Defensive end is one of the Ravens' deepest positions. Still, the team was counting on Kaufusi, who had 11 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season for BYU, to help the team's pass rush. Kaufusi, 25, was working at both defensive end and outside linebacker in training camp practices, and pushing for playing time.
Lawrence Guy and Brent Urban are currently competing for the starting defensive end job, and were ahead of Kaufusi on the depth chart.
"It's tough news," Urban said after learning Kaufusi broke his ankle. "It's a next-man up mentality."
Urban, a fourth-round pick in 2014, tore up his knee in his first training camp. He then tore his biceps during training camp last year, delaying his NFL debut until last November. Harbaugh brought up Urban's situation when discussing the prognosis for Kaufusi.
Urban "went through it two years in a row," Harbaugh said. "That's part of the game, that's part of football. It happens for a reason, in my opinion. You have to look at it that way.
"It will be an opportunity for [Kaufusi] to take the next year and go to work on his body, go to work, become a mature NFL football player physically."
The Ravens drafted Kaufusi with the 70th overall pick in April's draft. That they still had the pick was a result of the team refusing to include it in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys to move up two spots in the first round to get in position to take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
Dallas, which was picking fourth and coveting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, wanted the Ravens' sixth overall pick and their third-round selection, but the Ravens were only willing to part with one of their fourth-round picks.
So the Cowboys stayed at No. 4 and drafted Elliott, the Jacksonville Jaguars tabbed Ramsey at fifth overall and the Ravens made Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley the sixth overall pick. The Ravens then used their third-rounder on Kaufusi, a versatile, high-energy player that exudes some of the characteristics the Ravens coaching staff covets.
Kaufusi missed the Ravens' organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp with a back injury. He returned in time for training camp and had been working mostly with the second- and third-teamers.
"He's young. He needs a lot of work on his lower body, strength-wise and flexibility-wise. He was playing well, but he's only going to be better next year," Harbaugh said. "We'll get him in the weight room, we'll get him with our conditioning coaches and he'll be a much better player a year from now than he would have been this year. You just have to look at it that way. You have to look at it like it happened for a reason and it's an opportunity, and you have to make the most of it."
The Ravens will likely carry six or seven defensive linemen on their roster to open the regular season. Starting nose tackle Brandon Williams, starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Guy, Urban and Carl Davis are considered locks, and it would be moderately surprising if fourth-round defensive tackle Willie Henry didn't make the team.
Kaufusi's injury could make it easier for veteran Kapron Lewis-Moore, who has had a good start to training camp, or undrafted rookie Victor Ochi, who has been playing both outside linebacker and defensive end, to make the team.
The Ravens like maintaining a deep defensive line rotation, so they could sign another defensive end to replace Kaufusi. However, for now, they appear comfortable with Guy and Urban as their top two defensive ends.
"They look very good," Harbaugh said. "They are running one and two back and forth. They're battling for that spot. They're both playing very well."