Ravens running back Justice Hill reportedly tore his Achilles tendon in practice last week, likely ending his season and forcing the team to scramble for a replacement ahead of next Monday’s season opener.
Hill, who was not at practice Monday, was reportedly hurt Thursday, according to the NFL Network. Only five days earlier, the Ravens lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending knee injury in their preseason finale. Undrafted rookie Nate McCrary, released during the team’s roster cut-down last week, was claimed off waivers by the Denver Broncos.
That left the Ravens with just two running backs at Monday’s practice, Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams, one week before a “Monday Night Football” game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Hill had been recovering from a sprained ankle that limited him during training camp and the preseason. A 2019 fourth-round pick, he had just 12 carries for 60 yards last season but emerged as a special teams contributor.
With the Ravens’ depth waning, former All-Pro running backs Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman were among players who tried out for the team Monday, according to the NFL’s transaction wire, along with running back Elijah Holyfield.
Bell, 29, a three-time All-Pro for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has rushed for just 1,117 yards on 3.4 yards per carry over the past two seasons. He had 66 catches for 461 yards for the New York Jets in 2019, then had a combined 16 receptions for 138 yards for the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs last year.
Bell’s Chiefs contract expired at the end of last season, and he has yet to sign with another team. In June, he lashed out at Kansas City coach Andy Reid, writing on Instagram that he would rather retire than play for Reid again. Bell later explained on Twitter that his feelings stemmed from a comment Reid had made to him, but he didn’t elaborate.
Freeman, an All-Pro in 2015 with the Atlanta Falcons, was released during the New Orleans Saints’ roster cuts last month. He had 54 carries for 172 yards and seven catches for 58 yards in 2020 during an injury-marred season with the New York Giants.
Holyfield, the son of former champion boxer Evander Holyfield, does not have an NFL carry. He spent last season on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad but was waived last month.
The Ravens, one of the NFL’s most run-dominant teams, have invested significant draft capital in their running backs in recent years, taking Dobbins in the second round last year. General manager Eric DeCosta has called it a “greyhound” position, which he said requires quality depth.
“I think if you look at the Ravens over the last 15 years, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team, one of our teams, where the starting running back didn’t get hurt in this time at some point,” he said in a conference call with season-ticket holders last year.
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Players at greyhound positions “break down,” he said. “They get injuries. They take hits. They get soft-tissue injuries, and it’s very, very, very hard to finish the season without those guys being very healthy.”