The Ravens have long marveled about Marshal Yanda's ability to play through injuries and pain. In the previous eight seasons, the right guard had missed just five total games. When a tear in shoulder last season threatened to prematurely end his year, Yanda switched to left guard, a move that enabled him to stay on the field.
When the six-time Pro Bowl selection limped off the field early in the third quarter Sunday and eventually headed to the locker room, the Ravens immediately feared the worst. And their fears were confirmed when they learned after the game that Yanda had fractured his left ankle, an injury that ends the season of one of the NFL's best offensive linemen just two weeks in.
"It hurts," said Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, his voice somber. "He is a leader. There is not a word in the English dictionary that can describe — well, I can't find one right now — what Marshal is to us. It hurt. That hurts to lose your bell cow. We are going to miss him, but we still have to play Raven football. He would want us to play Raven football, and he would hold us to that standard."
The Ravens' 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium came at quite a cost. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams, the Ravens' top interior defensive lineman, also left the game in the third quarter with a foot injury. Coach John Harbaugh said he doesn't believe Williams will be out long-term. Tight end Maxx Williams left the game with a walking boot on his left ankle. Rookie middle linebacker and core special teamer Bam Bradley tore his ACL covering a punt and is done for the season.
When Yanda and Bradley go on injured reserve, the Ravens will have 15 players on IR and they've played only two weeks. The growing IR list includes five offensive linemen: starters Yanda and Alex Lewis (shoulder), rookie fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa (knee) and back-end roster candidates Stephane Nembot (knee) and Brandon Kublanow (undisclosed). Starting center candidate John Urschel retired abruptly on the eve of training camp.
But the loss of Yanda overshadows the rest. He is not only a leader on a relatively young and unproven offensive line, but he's also considered one of the voices of the locker room and one of Harbaugh's go-to guys.
"He is the ultimate warrior," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I've been in battle with him for 10 years and this is tough news to take. It's tough to replace a player like Marshal Yanda. We have to go to work without him, but it had to be hard for him to take news like this. He has been an awesome competitor, teammate and a close friend. I'm going to call him tonight to make sure he is OK because that has to be hard on him."
Yanda was hurt on the Ravens' first offensive play of the second half, a 2-yard run by Terrance West. Browns defensive tackle Trevon Coley, a former Raven, rolled up on Yanda's left ankle. The 11-year Raven stayed on the ground in visible pain before limping off the field.
"It's always tough to see a guy like that, especially a leader, a future Hall of Famer like Marshal Yanda, get hurt, because you kind of view those guys as invincible," Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "But those guys are just human like we all are. We've got to come to that reality and keep pushing."
Tony Bergstrom, a player the Ravens acquired from the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional draft pick after preseason play, replaced Yanda at right guard and played the rest of the game..
"I think he'll be the guy," Harbaugh said of Bergstrom. "No one can replace Marshal Yanda, no one person. But I think we traded for him for a reason, and our scouts believed in him."
Bergstrom last started a game with the Oakland Raiders in 2016. However, he's now the Ravens' starting right guard.
"You can't replace a guy like that," Bergstrom said of Yanda. "I mean the toughness he has and the kind of character he brings to the team. It's rough, but it's how the game is. It happens. It happens everywhere every year. We have a lot of confidence in all the guys. Everyone's going to have to step up. There's no replacing him, but we still have to move on."
Baltimore Sun reporters Mike Preston and Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.