OWINGS MILLS – Anquan Boldin won’t be a part of the Baltimore Ravens’ bid to claim the AFC North division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The veteran wide receiver underwent surgery Thursday to repair a slight tear in his meniscus, a development that will sideline him for the final two remaining games of the regular season.
Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedic surgeon, performed the procedure in Birmingham, Ala., after tests revealed the damage suffered Tuesday during a light practice session. Boldin felt pain and tightness in the knee after practice.
“It flapped up on him Tuesday night after the walk-through,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have to get that repaired. It’s a two week deal. It’s two weeks and he’ll be back for the playoffs, whichever round we happen to play in. It’ll be a little bit tighter if we have to play in the first round.”
The Ravens are banking on their leading receiver back for the postseason, which would entail him returning as soon as one week after their final game Jan. 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals if they’re a wild-card entrant.
If the Ravens defeat the Cleveland Browns on Saturday and the Bengals the following week, then they would buy Boldin an extra week to recover since they would win the division and receive a bye for the opening round of the playoffs.
Boldin will be replaced in the starting lineup by Lee Evans, and the Ravens will lean heavily on rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith and tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. The Ravens will likely have rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams active this week.
The Ravens have no current plans to bring back former wide receiver Derrick Mason, who was unproductive after being cut by Baltimore in stints with the Houston Texans and the New York Jets.
“We need to get Anquan healthy obviously but we’re going to have a lot of confidence in these young guys,” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has completed 57 passes for 887 yards and three touchdowns to Boldin. “We have two tight ends that are really good. We’re going to go out there and we’re still going to attack and do everything that we know how to do. Obviously, we’re going to miss Anquan. Hopefully, it’s an opportunity for him to get better. Hopefully, he comes back strong.”
Boldin hasn’t had a big game since he caught seven passes for 88 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 6.
Since that game, he has totaled only 16 receptions, 260 yards and one touchdown in six games.
Evans has caught only four passes for 74 yards since being acquired via a trade from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.
He missed a significant amount of time with a left ankle injury, being inactive for seven consecutive games after starting the first two games of the regular season.
“It’s an opportunity,” Evans said. “Whatever is called on me to do, I’ll be ready to do. I’ve been working to get back to this point, and I’m getting an opportunity. It is what it is, and I’m looking forward to it.
“It will just be about execution. We’ve got to do what we’ve practiced, and I’m looking forward to playing on Saturday.”
Although Flacco attempted to connect with Evans during a 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers, they didn’t have any completions as the quarterback missed him twice during the first series on potential touchdown throws.
“We’re improving each week,” Evans said when asked about the chemistry between himself and Flacco. “We’re proving that each week and doing everything we can do to get that better. We’re trying to play quick and play fast, and I think as long we go out there and play fast and just react to things, it’ll be good.”
Harbaugh suggested that the young players, including rookie Tandon Doss, could get more involved.
The Ravens also have the option of splitting out Dickson and Pitta as slot receivers because of their athleticism.
“That’s something that you want to get your young guys out there on the field as much as you can but you don’t want to do it before they’re ready to have some success,” Harbaugh said. “I think those guys are very much ready to have some success between LaQuan and Tandon, the tight ends probably play a role in that as well. It will be very interesting to see how they do but we anticipate them playing real well.”
Smith has emerged as a dangerous downfield target for the Ravens, catching 43 passes for 770 yards and seven touchdowns, breaking Jamal Lewis’ franchise rookie scoring record.
Averaging 17.9 yards per reception, Smith said that not having Boldin’s contribution as a run blocker and leader will affect the offense.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Smith said. “Anquan’s our leader. We’re definitely going to miss him out there on the field as a player. We’ve got to step up. It’s too important for us to play well right now, not have any letdowns. The whole team is depending on us to play well and we’ve got to go out there and do it.
“We’ll be fine. It’s the NFL. It’s the next man up. We’re going to miss Q more than anybody, especially me. That’s the guy who I look up to the most on the field. I’m just going to have to step up. Coach Harbaugh told us, ‘Next man up,’ and we’ve got to go out there and perform.”