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Ravens 'numb' to injuries with seven starters missing from practice on offense alone

When the Ravens broke from the special teams portion of practice into individual drills Wednesday, Jimmy Clausen and Bryn Renner were taking snaps, and Kaelin Clay, Richard Gordon and Konrad Reuland were among those running routes.

Seven of the team's 11 offensive starters to begin the season were someplace else.

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This is what the 2015 season has come to for these Ravens, who host the two-time defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday without their starting quarterback and possibly their backup, too. And that's just the beginning for an offense that has been torn apart by injuries, leaving seldom-used reserves as sudden starters and former practice squad players as important contingency plans.

"You go into the huddle and you have to do a second look to make sure you're in the right one," Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk said after Wednesday's practice.

The Ravens have 16 players on injured reserve, believed to be an NFL high. That doesn't include tight end Dennis Pitta, who will finish a lost season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Nor does it include tight end Crockett Gillmore (back), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) and left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder). All three could be shut down soon unless they show significant improvement physically.

If their seasons are over, they'll join quarterback Joe Flacco, starting running back Justin Forsett, top wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., first-round draft pick and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, starting center Jeremy Zuttah and all-time Ravens sack leader Terrell Suggs on the injured list. Rookie tight end Nick Boyle is also on the suspended list, a lapse in judgment that is compounded by Gillmore's being hurt and fellow rookie tight end Maxx Williams' still undergoing concussion protocol.

Of the 16 players on injured reserve, 11 play on offense for the Ravens, who are 4-8 and essentially playing out the string.

"We're pretty numb to it now," said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who joined Juszczyk, left guard Kelechi Osemele and right guard Marshal Yanda as the only offensive starters practicing Wednesday. "It is what it is. We really haven't had any time to sit back and really think about all the injuries or sit here and soak on them. We're just taking it as it goes."

The Ravens' latest injury dilemma is at quarterback, as Matt Schaub, who has started the two games since Flacco tore up his left knee Nov. 22, is dealing with a chest injury. He didn't practice Wednesday, leaving Clausen, who was added to the roster about 21/2 weeks ago, to take the first-team repetitions. Out of football since the Ravens cut him late in training camp, Renner also was signed to the practice squad and will be added to the 53-man roster by Saturday if it appears Schaub won't be able to play against the Seahawks (7-5).

"It's going to be, probably, just a tolerance issue and how well he moves around," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said when asked about Schaub's chances of playing. "We're not going to practice him too much here early in the week. It's good to get Jimmy the reps anyway. Jimmy needs the reps more than Matt does, but if Matt can go, he will. And Matt is tough; he showed that in the [Miami] game. I wouldn't be shocked if we see him play. Maybe we'll play them both. We'll just see how it goes."

Schaub said he expects to play. He said he's just dealing with soreness after he took a pounding against the Dolphins. In the days after the game, he has had another concussion test and also had his shoulder checked out.

"As a competitor, you want to be out there. I'm gearing all my mindset and everything toward Sunday," Schaub said.

Whoever is the quarterback against the Seahawks, who have the NFL's second-ranked defense, his supporting cast will bear little resemblance to the team's personnel when the Ravens broke training camp.

With Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro on IR, Buck Allen and Terrance West (Towson, Northwestern High) are the top two running backs. Aiken is the Ravens' only healthy receiver who was on the roster before Oct. 3. Unless Williams is cleared — he wore a red noncontact jersey in Wednesday's practice — the Ravens' top tight ends will be Reuland and Gordon, who were added to the 53-man roster Tuesday.

Along the offensive line, the Ravens will have two substitutes starting in place of Zuttah and Monroe, and possibly a third if right tackle Rick Wagner can't go. He missed practice Wednesday.

"It happens everywhere. It's so happened that it's happened a lot more to us this year," Aiken said. "We're dealing with it the best we can."

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Last season, the Ravens finished with 19 players on season-ending IR, a high under Harbaugh. But in terms of key players lost, several of them early in the season, injuries have taken a far greater toll this year.

It started in the first full-squad practice of training camp, when Perriman, expected to be the deep threat the offense needed, went down with a knee injury. What initially was thought to be a minor knee bruise ultimately became a season-ending partial tear in his PCL. Defensive end Brent Urban and safety Matt Elam, two players pressing for starting roles, suffered biceps tears early in training camp. Urban missed the first 10 games, while Elam is sidelined for the entire season.

It continued in the regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos, when Suggs went down with a torn Achilles tendon. Each successive week seemed to bring another significant injury. Smith tore his Achilles tendon on Nov. 1 against the San Diego Chargers. Two games later, Forsett broke his arm, and Flacco tore his ACL and MCL against the St. Louis Rams. Flacco had started 137 consecutive games to begin his career.

"Every team, every organization, everybody goes through the same thing that we're going through," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves."

Harbaugh acknowledged that the organization, as it does every offseason, will review the team's injuries and determine whether there is anything it could do differently to prevent them in the future. For now, though, the Ravens just have to make do with what they have and avoid taking the "Why us?" approach.

"Whoever is out there, we have to go play," Schaub said. "The ball is going to be kicked off."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.

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