For a player who throws his body at opponents to stop them from gaining yardage, Elvis Dumervil has been surprisingly durable. In five seasons before this one, he missed just three of 80 games.
So this foot injury that the Ravens outside linebacker can't seem to shake is baffling because he thought he had addressed it by undergoing surgery in the offseason. But when times have gotten particularly stressful, Dumervil, 32, has been able to put aside his worries and focus on his wife, Jennifer, and their newborn daughter, Ella.
"When you go through things in life and there are things that you can't control, you get frustrated," Dumervil said last week. "But the one thing that makes it go away is my wife and my family. You kind of lean on them more, and you realize that there's still life. And that kind of helps you step away and appreciate it more when you go back to work."
Work — or in Dumervil's case, sacking quarterbacks — has been an elusive task. He has sat out eight of 10 games this season, including Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, despite practicing fully Wednesday and Thursday last week.
Dumervil was downgraded to limited participation in Friday's session and was designated as doubtful for the game. Coach John Harbaugh said Dumervil did not suffer a setback in practice but was held out on the trainers' recommendations.
"Like I said, that's up to the doctors," Harbaugh said Monday. "That's the medical staff that makes those decisions. That's how it works."
At first, Harbaugh said he had no expectations for Dumervil. Then he said he thinks Dumervil can still be an impact player.
"I hope he has 10 sacks," Harbaugh said. "That's what I'm hoping for. I'm hoping he just lights it up and dominates. I'm hoping he's the difference. … [But] I just don't have an answer. If he's out there, I expect him to play great."
Major injuries have been a rarity for Dumervil. Aside from missing the entire 2010 season because of a torn pectoral muscle in training camp, Dumervil has been a near-constant presence on the field, first for the Denver Broncos and then the Ravens.
Dumervil still remembers tearing his pectoral Aug. 4, 2010 — just two weeks after signing a six-year, $61.5million contract extension, which included more than $43 million in guaranteed money from Denver.
"It was devastating," he said. "So this time around, I think God kind of prepared me to show my growth, in terms of how to deal with adversity."
Some of Dumervil's closest friends on the Ravens said he hasn't changed while he has been rehabilitating his foot. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken and outside linebacker Albert McClellan joked that Dumervil still insists he knows everything.
"He's the same Doom. He's the same guy with all of the answers," McClellan said. "But he still helps us out. He helps all the guys rushing the passer. He'll let us know what he sees on the film and what he looks at, and he also helps us watch film the way he watches film. So nothing really has changed with Doom."
Aiken — whose older brother, Leon Woodstock, attended Jackson High in Miami with Dumervil — said he has not seen the injury depress his teammate.
"I wouldn't say discouraged, but frustrating, yeah," Aiken said of Dumervil's demeanor. "That's what anybody goes through with any injury. The rehab process is boring, it's repetitive, it's the same thing every day. He just had to be patient."
Many Ravens fans remember Dumervil's 2014 season, when he set the franchise record for sacks with 17. Most assume he will never reach that level again, regardless of health, but Dumervil has set a high standard for himself.
"I expect the same thing," he said. "Last year was rough on a lot of levels. There were a lot of chips and double teams, and that was a brutal year. This year is a great opportunity. We've got Eric Weddle, and we've got a lot of the guys that were young last year that have matured and are playing at a high level. Having [fellow outside linebacker Terrell] Suggs back [from a torn Achilles tendon] helps. So I just know that I won't be the only focus point, as it was last year. I know if I can get my one-on-ones, my goal is to always beat my guy. If I get double- or triple-teamed with the weapons we have now, they're going to pay for it."
The immediate question is whether Dumervil will be able to contribute to the Ravens with just six games remaining in the regular season. The long-term question is whether he will be with the team next fall.
Dumervil is scheduled to count nearly $8.4 million against the salary cap in 2017 before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks contracts in professional sports.
Dumervil said he believes he can continue to play in the NFL: "Retirement is nowhere near my vision."
Note: The Chicago Bears signed quarterback David Fales off the Ravens' practice squad, according to multiple reports. Fales, who has never played in an NFL game, was signed, released and signed again by the Ravens this month. The Bears, who drafted Fales out of San Jose State in 2014, are dealing with a shoulder injury to starting quarterback Jay Cutler.