INDIANAPOLIS — Of the NFL’s 32 teams, 27 had at least an A- strength staff last year, according to a survey from the NFL Players Association. Only one, however, received the lowest grade possible: the Ravens got an F-.
Its flunking grade — surprising given the club’s typically applauded culture — prompted some former Ravens players to criticize the team’s former strength coach, Steve Saunders, who was named in the report released Wednesday. Saunders, who had been with the team since 2016, was replaced last week by assistant strength coach Scott Elliott.
“At the core of these issues is the team’s former head strength coach, Steve Saunders (recently parted with); assessment of him by player respondents was markedly negative,” the NFLPA’s report stated.
The NFLPA confidentially polled 1,300 players across the league in eight categories. It’s unknown how many Ravens participated. Overall, Baltimore finished in the middle of the pack (17th), but its failing grade for strength coaches stood out. Only five teams received an F- in any category.
Defensive lineman Carl Davis Jr., a third-round draft pick by the Ravens in 2015, battled injuries during his three seasons with the team.
In a tweet Wednesday, Davis, a current New England Patriot, said he was “[definitely] a victim of the strength coaches” in Baltimore, noting he had two labrum injuries and “multiple [pectoral muscle] strains.”
Linebacker Bam Bradley was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2017 but quickly suffered a torn ACL. He added Thursday to Davis’s comments, saying that five months after his ACL injury, he was “unsuccessfully doing the same leg workouts as people with healthy knees” and that it “ruined me.”
In response, former Ravens and current Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon tweeted that he’d “told [the Ravens] to fire him,” seemingly referring to Saunders.
“Crazy part is that [Saunders] went and said I wasn’t working hard and I was being rebellious,” Davis wrote in response to Judon. “I’m like I ain’t tryna get hurt again.”
Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and appeared in one game that season before facing injuries and eventually being released in 2019. In response to a tweet about Saunders, Adeboyejo said: “Definitely ruined my career” and added that he’d had three season-ending injuries “in a row after being healthy my entire career prior.”
Rashod Bateman, expected to be the Ravens’ top wide receiver this season, also voiced criticisms of the team Thursday in a since-deleted tweet. In reply to a post about general manager Eric DeCosta’s comments on the team’s wide receivers, Bateman defended the group, which is considered one of the team’s weakest positions.
“Stop pointing the finger at us and [Lamar Jackson],” he wrote, referencing Baltimore’s star quarterback who remains locked in contract negotiations.
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Bateman, who has been injured in both of his NFL seasons since being selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, also wrote: “keep us healthy ... care about US & see what happen.” Former Ravens running back Mike Davis agreed, saying that Bateman was “100% right.”
Former defensive end Derek Wolfe, who spent 2020 and 2021 with the Ravens before being released with an injury settlement in June and retiring a month later, also contributed to the onslaught of complaints.
“[I told] you the Ravens strength staff was [trash,]” he wrote, using an emoji of a trash can.
Saunders could not immediately be reached for comment and the Ravens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When asked about Saunders on Wednesday — before the public criticism from players rolled in — Ravens coach John Harbaugh credited Saunders with contributing to the team’s strong record in the later months of recent seasons.
“I’m excited for Scott Elliott,” Harbaugh said of the team’s new strength coach, who spent the past two years working under Saunders. “Scott Elliott and the whole group get an opportunity now to show what they can do.”
This story might be updated.