INDIANAPOLIS — Several former Ravens slammed the team’s strength and conditioning program Wednesday and Thursday, blaming coaches for significant injuries they suffered in Baltimore.
Their comments on social media came in the wake of an NFL Players Association survey of players, released Wednesday, that gave the Ravens’ strength staff an F-minus grade. Only one other team, the Atlanta Falcons, received a grade worse than a B.
According to a summary of the players’ union findings, players did not feel like the team’s strength staff helped them succeed, with only 38% of respondents saying they received an individualized plan for their strength training.
The Ravens parted ways last week with strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders, who was heavily criticized for his role in the Ravens’ coronavirus outbreak in 2020 and the team’s historic injury toll in 2021. Scott Elliott, previously the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coach, was promoted to strength and conditioning coordinator. Anthony Watson, Ron Shrift and Kaelyn Buskey were also retained as strength and conditioning coaches.
“Told you the Ravens strength staff was [wastebasket emoji],” former Ravens defensive lineman Derek Wolfe tweeted Wednesday. The Ravens released Wolfe with an injury settlement in June, and he retired a month later. Wolfe had missed all of the 2021 season with hip and back injuries.
Told you the Ravens strength staff was 🗑️ pic.twitter.com/vuNyTMItoG— Derek Wolfe (@Derek_Wolfe95) March 1, 2023
Former Ravens defensive lineman Carl Davis, who played in Baltimore from 2015 to 2017, tweeted that he was a “victim of the strength coaches. Two Labrums and multiple pec [pectoral muscle] strains.”
Former Ravens wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who played one game as a rookie in 2016, indicated on Twitter that Saunders “definitely ruined my career,” saying he suffered three straight season-ending injuries “after being healthy my entire career prior.”
Adeboyejo said he was “forced” to practice with a knee injury because he was on the roster bubble. “They cared less about treating me,” he tweeted. Adeboyejo later said there was a “huge disconnect” between the athletic trainers and strength coaches, “which led to multiple injuries for a lot of guys.”
“No hard feelings tho,” Adeboyejo tweeted. “I still love Harbs [coach John Harbaugh] and the organization as a whole.”
Former Ravens inside linebacker Bam Bradley said on Twitter that doing leg workouts five months “post ACL” — he suffered a torn ACL as a rookie in a September 2017 game — “ruined me.”
Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who’s missed 16 games over his first two years with groin and Lisfranc (foot) injuries, retweeted a message indicating that he was healthy at Minnesota but “hasn’t finished a season yet” in Baltimore.
“Keep us healthy,” Bateman later wrote in a since-deleted tweet responding to comments from general manager Eric DeCosta about the team’s wide receivers. “Care about US & see what happen.”
#Ravens 2021 first round pick WR Rashod Bateman responds to Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta saying on BAL problems drafting WRs: “If I had an answer, that would probably mean I would have some better receivers. ... We're gonna keep swinging…….”:— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) March 2, 2023
BATEMAN: “how bout you play to your… https://t.co/DI1S7NtY7U pic.twitter.com/sgImEMM2IU
(Bateman eventually tweeted an apology.)
Former Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who signed with the New England Patriots in March 2021, tweeted that he told the Ravens to fire Saunders, whose public supporters in previous years had included former outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Eric Weddle.
Saunders declined to comment, and a Ravens spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the NFLPA, a survey was sent to every player on a team’s 2022 roster with questions that called for both quantitative and qualitative answers. The union reviewed the responses, evaluated them and provided a grade that was “intended to reflect player opinions.” It’s unclear how many Ravens responded, but a spokesman for the union said Thursday that the survey was conducted and results were compiled “during the latter part of this past season.”
The survey was released mid-Wednesday afternoon, just as Ravens coach John Harbaugh was finishing interviews with reporters at the NFL scouting combine. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta spoke an hour earlier. Both were asked about the team’s change in its strength and conditioning staff.
“I think we made good strides this year, so that was great,” DeCosta said. “I think our training room did an awesome job. I was encouraged by the performance people. We put some new programs in place, some new ways of doing things. Injuries were definitely down. We got guys back faster. ... which is a huge thing. I think Scott [Elliott] will do a great job. Got a lot of energy. Smart guy. I think he’ll do an awesome job. I think John got a good one. We’re lucky to have him, and I think he’ll have a big impact on the team.”
Harbaugh, who defended Saunders after his rocky 2020, said Wednesday that what “what Steve did for us, what he brought to this thing for the last eight years, was pretty revolutionary itself. We are one of the strongest teams in football, one of the most physical teams in football, one of the most conditioned teams in football. That’s why our record in December and January is really pretty phenomenal — November, December and January. It’s pretty remarkable. So a lot of that has to do with the way we condition. So I appreciate Steve in that sense. …
“I’m excited for Scott Elliott. Scott Elliott and the whole group get an opportunity now to show what they can do. We’ve been great — all the things we did on the injury front last year, I think, paid off this year. Yeah, we had some injuries. But the soft-tissue stuff was vastly improved. So I think we’re headed in the right direction.”