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Albert McClellan's season-ending knee injury continues run of tough losses for Ravens

August 28, 2017 -- Sports columnist Mike Preston look at offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and his return to practice. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

When the Ravens began practice Monday, their last two first-round picks – offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marlon Humphrey – were on the field. That was a victory in itself as Stanley had not practiced since Aug.12 because of an undisclosed injury and Humphrey has been sidelined for the better part of three weeks with a hamstring strain.

But in a training camp and offseason partly defined by injuries and roster defections, bad news on the injury front was just around the corner. Following practice, Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced that valuable reserve linebacker and special teams standout Albert McClellan will miss the 2017 season after he tore an ACL in practice last Wednesday.

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"He will be with us next year and it provides a great opportunity for a couple of these young linebackers who have played well on special teams," Harbaugh said. "So, that's where we're at with that."

The loss of McClellan, one of the longest-tenured Ravens, leaves the team extremely young at inside linebacker behind C.J. Mosley and subtracts another accomplished special teams player from a mix that also lost Kyle Juszczyk, Zachary Orr and Kamar Aiken during the offseason.

It also costs them one of the most-respected leaders in the locker room. McClellan, 31, was instrumental in mentoring some of the Ravens' young linebackers.

"A big special teams guy that has been helping me out with special teams and teaching me the ropes with everything," said rookie second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser. "Just to see him out is heartbreaking. I hate to see that happen to anybody; I don't care who it is.

"Just to see somebody work so hard and dedicate so much time and energy in this program and then to go out with an individual injury, that is tough to see. But I am always praying for him and hoping the best and a speedy recovery."

A Raven since 2010, McClellan started 11 games for the team last season at strong-side linebacker. The drafting of Bowser and Tim Williams, along with the return of Terrell Suggs and the development of Matthew Judon and Za'Darius Smith, prompted the Ravens to move McClellan back inside this summer. He was considered a valuable veteran reserve behind C.J. Mosley. The Ravens' other inside linebackers, including Kamalei Correa and Patrick Onwuasor – are either in their first or second season.

McClellan's absence could allow the Ravens to keep one of their two undrafted inside linebackers, Bam Bradley or Donald Payne, on the 53-man roster. It's not also out of the question that the team tries to acquire a veteran inside linebacker either through trade or free agency.

McClellan is the ninth Raven to be lost to a season-ending injury since June 1. That list also includes running back Kenneth Dixon (knee), wide receiver Tim White (thumb), tight ends Dennis Pitta (hip) and Crockett Gillmore (knee), offensive linemen Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Nico Siragusa (knee) and cornerback Tavon Young (knee). It's also possible that cornerback Maurice Canady, who had knee surgery about a month ago, starts on injured reserve.

When you also take into account the season-long suspension of tight end Darren Waller and the surprising retirement of offensive guard/center John Urschel, the Ravens have lost a dozen players since June who were expected to make their 53-man roster.

And that doesn't even include quarterback Joe Flacco, who is yet to practice because of a back injury, and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who has only participated in a few practices because of a significant hamstring strain.

The Ravens are optimistic both will return in time for the Sept.10 regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We are looking forward to putting it all together and seeing all of our guys out there," Harbaugh said Monday. "We've been missing guys pretty much all the way through. But, probably offensively, we have more than most years."

The Ravens had 11 players missing from Monday's practice and eight of them were on the offensive side of the ball. The only new absence was quarterback Thaddeus Lewis as Flacco, Perriman and running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring) were among those that remained sidelined.

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Stanley, though, was a big piece to get back. Harbaugh had said that the starting left tackle was dealing with "camp stuff" that kept him sidelined for two weeks. Stanley participated in individual drills in Monday's practice, but then went inside when the team workouts started.

On the defensive side, Humphrey returned to practice for the first time since playing a few snaps in the Ravens' preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Aug.17. Humphrey missed some time early in camp and then returned the week leading up to the Dolphins' game. He then had a minor setback in that game.

Humphrey worked out on the field before Saturday's preseason matchup against the Buffalo Bills, but he did not play in the game. He's played in just one of the three preseason games and Thursday's matchup against the New Orleans Saints is his last opportunity before the regular-season opener.

"I know that the starters won't be playing, so I'll probably get an opportunity to get a lot of snaps and start the game," Humphrey said after getting through Monday's practice without any setbacks. "So I'm looking forward to that."

Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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