Ravens tight end Mark Andrews returned to practice Friday nearly two months after he reportedly suffered severe ankle and leg injuries, a potential shot in the arm for the offense of a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Ravens designated Andrews to return, opening his 21-day practice window for a possible comeback. He opened practice with his usual routine of catching passes during special teams drills, worked out with the tight ends during positional drills and moved on to individual work during team drills.
Andrews, one of quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets, went down on the first drive of the team’s Week 11 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 28-year-old reportedly suffered ligament damage in his ankle and a cracked fibula when he was brought down on a hip-drop tackle by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson.
Coach John Harbaugh said at the time there was an “outside chance” Andrews could return for the playoffs because the damage to his ankle “wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.”
Addressing reporters Friday, Harbaugh said the team will have a better idea of Andrews’ timeline next week.
Everyone in the organization was excited Andrews was back on the practice field, he said.
“They’re happy for Mark,” Harbaugh said. “You always want to see one of the brothers back out there doing their thing.”
Fullback Patrick Ricard, who earlier in the day received second-team All-Pro honors, said Andrews had been working hard to return and was moving well in his first practice back.
“We know he wants to be out there with us every second he can, and he’s looking really good,” Ricard said. “He’s a guy that’s a big leader on this team, a great teammate, a great brother, so for us to see him out there, it definitely boosts morale.”
Before the injury, Andrews had 45 catches for 544 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games. Even though Andrews missed the last six games of the regular season, his receiving touchdowns rank first on the team and his yards rank third. Tight end Isaiah Likely has filled in more than capably, ranking eighth at the position in receiving yards (322), second in receiving touchdowns (five) and second in yards per catch (15.3) over the last seven weeks of the regular season.
After earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the Ravens are on a bye during the start of the NFL’s postseason. By the end of the AFC wild-card round on Sunday afternoon, they’ll learn which opponent will come to M&T Bank Stadium the following weekend for the divisional round.
In the wake of injuries to Andrews and other players, such as Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said he would like to see the hip-drop tackle banned. The technique involves a defender grabbing a ball carrier and throwing all of his weight onto the runner’s lower body, pulling him to the ground.
“I think we all should work to get that out of the game,” Goodell said at the league’s owners meetings in December. “You see it escalated the number of times it occurred this season. The injuries could be very devastating. We saw that also. It’s not just happening at the NFL level; it’s happening at other levels. It’s something that we have to work very hard to get that removed this spring.”
Note: Seven Ravens were missing at Friday’s practice, including wide receiver Zay Flowers (calf), outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (ankle), inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (shoulder), linebacker Malik Harrison (groin) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf), all of whom missed the team’s three media viewing periods this week. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and wide receiver Tylan Wallace were also absent.
Baltimore Banner reporter Jonas Shaffer contributed reporting to this story.