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After 12 standout seasons, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda might be 'just getting better and better' physically

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has appeared in at least 13 games 10 times during his 12 seasons in the NFL.
Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has appeared in at least 13 games 10 times during his 12 seasons in the NFL. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

At 34, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda is old for an NFL player. Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden retired when he was 33. Ravens special teams coordinator-in-waiting Chris Horton is just a few months younger than Yanda. No other Ravens lineman was born in the 1980s.

And yet Yanda was honored as second-team All-Pro last season. He was named a Pro Bowl starter. Before Yanda, who turns 35 in September, agreed to a contract extension through 2020 last week, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said the team hoped its longtime right guard would "continue to play for us for years."

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Ravens head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders doesn’t doubt that he could.

“It’s his work ethic as much as anything,” Saunders said Tuesday, the second day of the team’s offseason workout program. “That guy comes to work. He takes care of himself. He understands it as a vet, and he never lets himself get out of shape.”

Yanda missed most of the 2017 season with a fractured left ankle and toiled through the subsequent offseason after shoulder surgery, but he nonetheless started all 16 games last season. In his 12 seasons, he has appeared in at least 13 games 10 times.

Yanda’s Pro Football Focus rating has slipped each of the past five years, but he still graded out as the third-best guard in the NFL in 2018. Saunders said that, physically, Yanda could be only getting stronger.

“When we talk about building a base, and it just increases year after year, Marshal has, I don’t know, 13, 12 [years], whatever it is, of those under his belt already,” Saunders said. “So as long as he avoids that freak happenstance, he’s just getting better and better. I think guys [in their] early to mid-30s are just reaching their peak, as long as they didn’t have that freak injury where something happens to the joint.

“I tell the guys all the time, if you were in the mob and I owed you money, and you said, ‘I’m going to break your femur or blow out your knee, take your pick,’ I’d say, ‘Break my bone. Break my femur’ — because bones heal. Joints are never the same.”

Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said he was “very happy” he’d get to play at least another year with Yanda, who was not among the players who spoke Tuesday at the team facility. All five starters return on a line that helped make the Lamar Jackson-led rushing attack one of the NFL’s best, and PFF had the Ravens as the league’s third-most efficient pass-blocking team in 2018.

“We definitely want to be the best offensive line in the world,” Brown said. “I think our vision up front is to be great, and it’s going to take work, it’s going to take time. Fortunately, the urgency is there, but we still do have some time to continuously get better. Once we get out on the field, training camp starts, we get Marshal back and all those things, we’ll hit the ground running. I’m pretty confident in it.”

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