When he was asked the whereabouts of his starting running back at the beginning of training camp, Ravens coach John Harbaugh handed the question off to J.K. Dobbins.
“That’s a J.K. question,” Harbaugh told reporters July 26. “I wish it was a simple answer. There’s always a lot of things that go into football, but there’s some complexity to it and we’re working through all that. J.K.’s working through it, and I’m looking forward to when he’s out there.”
Nearly a month later, Dobbins finally answered it himself.
“That’s a tough question,” Dobbins said Wednesday, speaking with reporters. “I was just being cautious. My teammates need me, so I want to be there for my teammates and that’s all it was. My teammates understood what was going on, so it’s all good now. I’m out here.”
Dobbins missed the first 2 1/2 weeks of training camp while on the physically-unable-to-perform list, but his injury was never specified. At mandatory minicamp, he was also absent, but reportedly over unhappiness with his contract situation. Dobbins is headed into the final year of his rookie contract.
While away from the practice field, Dobbins was still active at the team facility, taking part in meetings and occasionally appearing at practice alongside general manager Eric DeCosta. He described the time away as difficult.
“I love playing football, I love being with my teammates out there, and they love when I’m out there,” Dobbins said. “It was super tough, but we got through it. We’ll continue to get better as a team with me out there, and it’ll be a great year. It’s going to be a great year.”
When asked about his physical condition, Dobbins said he feels 100% healthy.
“I feel amazing,” Dobbins said. “I feel pretty dang good. I’m going to just leave it at that because I feel so good.”
Since his return, Dobbins has looked good on the field, participating in individual drills and ramping up his work in team sessions. He’s been accelerating and cutting well. As the Ravens implement a new offense under Todd Monken leading up to the season opener Sept. 10 against the Houston Texans, Dobbins figures to play an important role.
Dobbins was one of the Ravens’ top performers after returning from arthroscopic knee surgery last year, running for 459 yards in five games, including the postseason. He’s the starter among a crowded running back room with Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon III and undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell.
It’s a crucial year for Dobbins, not just because it’s a contract year but he’s also looking to ditch durability concerns and show he can stay on the field — he has yet to play a full season for the Ravens. The fourth-year back said his desire is to play his entire career in Baltimore and expressed confidence a new deal will get done.
“The best GM in the game,” Dobbins said of DeCosta. “He’ll get it worked out; whatever happens happens. He’s going to get it worked out. We have good conversations, and I have much respect for Mr. Eric and Coach Harbaugh, everyone — Mr. Steve [Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti]. It is what it is, but when the time [comes], I’m going to go out there and play and do good. Hopefully I’m playing for the Ravens the rest of my football career.”
The Ravens had a little bit of good news on the injury front at Wednesday’s practice:
- Projected starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin returned for the first time since injuring his knee Aug. 2. Although he was held out of team drills, Ya-Sin looked comfortable in individuals.
- Cornerback Arthur Maulet also rejoined the team, participating only in individual drills as well.
- Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews was not at practice, but when asked if he’s dealing with an injury, Harbaugh said it’s “nothing serious. He’s dealing with something that we’re kind of working through right now.”
- Wide receiver Shemar Bridges has a sprained ligament in his knee — “It’s a multiple-week kind of deal,” Harbaugh said. Safety Geno Stone missed practice because of soreness in his ankle. He was held out as a precaution.