Ravens defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, sidelined since August with back and hip injuries, is “not in a place where he’s going to be able to play” this season, coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
The Ravens designated Wolfe to return to practice Oct. 26, meaning the team’s 21-day window to move him to the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve ends Tuesday.
Wolfe, who was hurt in a mid-August joint practice with the Carolina Panthers, practiced at least once during the Ravens’ bye week last month. But he didn’t practice before the Ravens’ win over the Minnesota Vikings — “The back is not feeling good,” Harbaugh said Nov. 5 — and Wolfe’s absence continued last week as the team prepared for the Miami Dolphins. Harbaugh wasn’t optimistic that would change as Wolfe’s deadline approached.
“I think Derek’s going to be out for the rest of the year, in all honesty,” he said. “It looks that way. So I don’t really have any details on it. I can’t say that I understand it completely. It’d be a good question for our medical people or for [general manager] Eric [DeCosta], if they want to put a statement out, or if Derek wants to say something, because I won’t get it right, exactly. But he’s not in a place where he’s going to be able to play.”
Wolfe suffered a bruised spinal cord in 2013 and underwent neck surgery in 2018, which he called “life-changing.” Asked whether Wolfe’s absence was related to his back injury, Harbaugh said: “I’m not in a place to detail all that out.”
After appearing in 14 games and starting eight last season in Baltimore, where he impressed as one of the Ravens’ top run defenders, Wolfe signed a three-year, $12 million extension in March. In training camp, he was knocked onto his back after a collision during an 11-on-11 drill against Carolina, where he remained for several minutes while an athletic trainer tended to him. Wolfe eventually rose to his feet and walked to the sideline under his own power, though he did not return.
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Harbaugh said then that the injury was “nothing serious,” but Wolfe remained inactive throughout September and much of October. A day before he was designated to return, Harbaugh said the 31-year-old was “very, very close to returning.”
With Wolfe sidelined, the Ravens will likely continue to rely heavily on defensive end Calais Campbell, who has played at least 69% of their defensive snaps in all but one game this season. Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington have played primarily on early downs, with rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh moving inside in obvious passing situations.
- Cornerback Tavon Young’s foot injury, suffered late in Thursday’s loss to the Dolphins, “doesn’t look real severe,” Harbaugh said. He could play Sunday against the Chicago Bears. “That was good,” Harbaugh said. “That was fortunate for us.”
- Harbaugh said tight end Nick Boyle was close to playing Thursday. Boyle was limited in practice all last week by a knee injury.
- Rookie guard Ben Cleveland, also recovering from a knee injury, is an “option” to play in upcoming games, Harbaugh said, though he was uncertain whether Sunday’s game was a realistic possibility.
- Asked about the role of running back Ty’Son Williams, who didn’t play a snap Thursday, Harbaugh said: “If you’re a running back, you need to run hard. You need to break tackles. You need to get yards. You need to pass protect. You need to run the right route out of the backfield, catch the ball and get upfield. If you’re in the rotation, special teams sure would help you. … So I’m not talking about one player. It’s anybody in that [reserve running back] spot. Or it’s anybody at any position. You’ve got to produce.”
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Line: Ravens by 6