OWINGS MILLS — The return of Marshal Yanda to the starting lineup against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a moment built through countless hours of rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee.
Now, the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive guard has his starting job back as he supplanted Chris Chester on the right side during a 20-17 overtime win Sunday night.
Yanda tore all three major knee ligaments last season against the Indianapolis Colts, including the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament.
“It was a tough road,” Yanda said. “I got hurt last year and you just keep working. It was a significant injury. It was a long road for me. You take it day by day and good things happen. Now, I’m back in the lineup and you just got to keep on pushing.”
Yanda was convinced that he was healthy enough to play a while ago, but didn’t question the coaches’ decision.
With Yanda back in the lineup, his presence injects a physical, nasty nature into the offensive line.
Yanda started twice at right tackle when Jared Gaither injured his neck.
The Ravens rushed for 138 yards against the Steelers’ stout run defense with Yanda back in the lineup.
Yanda is a throwback blocker who grew up on an Iowa pig farm. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound grunt is the personification of blue-collar.
“It’s an attitude where we’re going to get after it,” he said. “We’re going to stay on them and try to drive them into the ground and finish plays. That’s just part of the offensive line is being physical.
“I love that part of the game. I love being physical and getting after guys. Hit guys in the throat, cut them when you have to, do whatever it takes.”
Unlike many other players who suffer a serious injury, Yanda’s work ethic and abilities weren’t forgotten by the coaching staff.
“When guys get hurt in this league, you sometimes forget about them," Ravens coach Harbaugh said. "They go back and they rehab and they’re forgotten about, and in some ways they don’t feel like they’re a part of the team. But they are and they’re around every day, as much as they can be. Marshal has been through that for a whole year, but got back probably from an ACL sooner than most people would, and now he’s back in the mix. He really has been all year, and he’s starting to play at the same level that he did when he got hurt against Indianapolis last year."
Meanwhile, Chester was utilized in a Jumbo package as an extra blocking tight end against the Steelers.
And he isn’t inclined to question being replaced.
“Obviously I would prefer the opportunity to play all the time,” he said. “It’s their decision. I felt good about the way I was playing. They made a decision to switch Marshal and I. When I get a chance I’m going to continue to block well. It’s more of a strategic thing.
“Marshal and I are kind of interchangeable. They felt it would be an advantage for him to be in there. They thought it would be a better move to put Marshal in there.”
INJURY UPDATE: Quarterback Joe Flacco is encouraged about the progress of his sprained ankle that he aggravated against the Steelers.
Flacco was limping badly while completing 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and one touchdown.
“It still feels really good right now,” Flacco said. “It’s just going to be a matter that it doesn’t happen again. That’s what happened this past week. I just aggravated it a little bit. As long as we can stop that from happening, it feels great.”
Flacco’s mobility and footwork seemed closer to normal Thursday, but it’s obvious it still bothers him somewhat. He participated fully.
Meanwhile, eight players didn’t practice Thursday.
That included free safety Ed Reed (ankle/hip), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (sprained left medial collateral ligament), fullback Le’Ron McClain (abdominal strain), offensive tackle Jared Gaither (illness), wide receiver Kelley Washington (illness), tight end L.J. Smith (ankle), linebacker Prescott Burgess (hamstring) and rookie safety K.J. Gerard (thigh).
“It’s nothing serious, just a tweak,” Burgess said. “I just need to get some rest and get ready to go. Of course, the cold tightens up your muscle, but our trainers know what to do with an injury. I’m feeling good.”
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis (foot) was limited.
Participating on a full-time basis: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle) and linebacker Jarret Johnson (left shoulder).
As for the Green Bay Packers, cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder), offensive tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and running back Ryan Grant (shoulder) were limited while quarterback Aaron Rodgers (ribs) participated fully as well as running back Ahman Green (groin), offensive lineman Allen Barbre (ankle), linebacker Brandon Chillar (hand) and fullback John Kuhn (hand).
WHO’S THE MOLE?: Well, it’s not offensive tackle Tony Moll.
Not in Harbaugh’s opinion.
The Ravens traded for Moll from the Packers on Sept. 5 in exchange for safety Derrick Martin with the team envisioning depth on the line, not a scouting report on Green Bay.
“It’s not to any great extent either way, I would think,” Harbaugh said. “Derrick knows our defense, he knows our calls and Tony knows some of their calls, but we’ve got to go play the game.”
Moll downplayed the idea that he could be of much assistance to the Ravens as far as providing information, but said he’ll help as much as possible.
“Sometimes, guys get brought in for just that reason,” he said. “Any vital information that can help a team, why wouldn’t you?”
Moll has been inactive for all but two games since the trade.
Martin has four tackles and one pass deflection as a reserve safety.
“I haven’t seen the field much or anything, but I’m still learning every day,” Moll said. “That’s the key to staying in this business.”
Moll said he’s not sure what it’s going to be like for him when he returns to Lambeau Field on Monday night
“It’s a weird feeling, I don’t know what to really expect,” Moll said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do or how I’m going to act. It’s not like I was on bad terms with them when I left.”
QUICK HITS: Lewis didn’t hold back when asked about the complex situations that accompany the NFL enacting new rules governing players returning to play after suffering a concussion. "That’s a hard decision," Lewis said in response to a question about whether he would take himself out of a game. "You’ve got to ask yourself what point in the game you’re at, what stage of the season you’re at, how big is the game? Are you really needed at that point? If you’re blowing somebody out, no. If you’re fighting to go to the Super Bowl, then you’ve got to suck it up. You watch a guy years ago in Terrell Davis, who did the same thing went in the game, and the coaches just told him, ‘We don’t need you to run in this play, but we need you to be in there or they won’t even think we’re running it.’ So some sacrifices you do make. Some sacrifices you do make in big games. You saw that one was made, so I think if I had the same decision, I’d do the same thing.” … The Packers last played on Thanksgiving during a win over the Detroit Lions, so they’ve had extra time to prepare for this matchup. The Ravens get one more day than usual to get ready.
“It’s not going to help as much as it’s going to help them,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve had three extra days.” … Harbaugh said the Ravens won’t be intimidated by the mystique surrounding Lambeau Field. “Yeah, that’s the old Hoosiers analogy, right?” he said. “The net is 10 feet high? So, it’ll be 100 yards by 53 and 1/3, I think. It’s a great place to play, and our guys are looking forward to it.” Added Lewis: “You know the history behind it. You know what comes with Lambeau Field. You the ‘frozen this’ and the ‘frozen that’ and it’s cold. You see the snow on the ground and you see how cold it is, and you just have fun.” … Johnson said he grew up rooting for the Packers. “One of my best friends was a huge Packers fan for some reason, so we always watched Green Bay,” he said. “We’d always sit there, and he’d have the big cheese head on when we would sit around the couch. Reggie White was always my favorite player, so it’s going to be pretty cool going up there.” … The news that former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has been placed on injured reserve with post-concussion syndrome came as a surprise to Ray Lewis. Lewis plans to retire after this season, so he has probably played his last football game. “Sorry to hear that,” Lewis said. “Prayers definitely go with him. You always want to leave the game healthy. You want to leave the game on your own terms, hopefully. Hopefully that concussion doesn’t linger, things like that. Lew played the game the way the game was supposed to be played. ‘Lew’ played between the tackles. Anytime you play the game the right way, when you do leave the game, you can’t do nothing but applaud.”