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Can Saunders Keep the Injury Bug Away? photo: Sean Grogan (@Sean_CecilWhig)

Street Talk Can Saunders Keep the Injury Bug Away?

Posted in Street Talk
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The health of the Baltimore Ravens as a team has been a major issue for the past several seasons.

The loss of several high-profile players to season-ending injuries has been tough to overcome, and is a major reason why they’ve missed the playoffs in three of four seasons. Whether it’s been members of their secondary, offensive line or quarterback, these losses have been frequent and detrimental.

While it’s true every team in the NFL battles the injury bug, it seems to sting harder for the Ravens.

In 2016, The Ravens ended the season with 16 players on injured reserve. In 2015, the team finished their campaign with 20 players on the list (NFL’s second-most). It was so bad in 2015, the franchise had 42 different players start at least one game for the purple and black.

As they do every offseason, the Ravens have taken a long, hard look at their strength and conditioning program to see what, if anything, can be done to improve the health of their players.

One of the major, not-so-sexy changes the front office has made this year in regards to said program is the release of long-time strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki, who spent nine seasons with the team.

Taking over the rein is second-year coach and Director of Performance, Steve Saunders. Brought on board last season, Saunders’ specialty is speed and recovery training. Saunders recently met with the media for the first time this offseason and unveiled some plans to the Ravens new training regimen.

“No, I think we’re doing it different – that I’ve been aware – than it’s been done in the past,” stated Saunders. “It’s not just really broken down by position, it’s by physical needs.

“Some guys need size, some guys need to put on muscle, some guys need to lose fat, some guys have certain imbalances in their legs, some guys are posterior-chain dominant and they need leg strength around the knee. So, what I try to do is go through the roster of guys based on last year, based on who I saw this offseason and say, ‘All right, who can I pair together?’

“And there’s a leadership component in that, too. Which younger guy do I want with a veteran to push each other? So, I just went through the roster and said, ‘All right, here’s how we’re going to break down offense and defense based on what they need and how I think we can get the most out of everybody here in the limited amount of time we have them for.”

Saunders also acknowledged that training will be different for several key members of the team who are battling or continuing to recover from injuries, including Joe Flacco and Jimmy Smith.

“Joe did fantastic the past two days,” said Saunders about the Ravens signal caller, who admitted he will continue to wear a brace this season. “I think with Joe, it’s just nice to get past the rehab of last year, have a healthy Joe who is working hard with everybody else. And Joe is just such a big, athletic guy that people can underestimate him, I feel.

“Watching him run with the group he was with and finishing first in some of the runs, we all watched film yesterday of some of the runs, and we’re like, ‘Wow, that was Joe on some of them finishing first.’ So for him, I just think there’s a confidence, there’s building on last year, and there’s getting Joe stronger and faster, and all of that is going to pay big dividends later during the season.”

Saunders also stated he had a plan for oft-injured corner Smith to stay healthy.

“I do,” said the second-year coach when asked if he thinks they can keep 22 on the field. “I mean, Jimmy is a freak.

“Jimmy is so strong in a lot of ways that it can work against himself. He’s such a big, strong guy, so with Jimmy it’s finding those little things that he needs. And some of the stuff he had – a high ankle sprain is a high ankle sprain. What are you going to do? His foot just got caught in a weird position.

“But for him, I think we can build a better Jimmy for next year and have him more durable and faster and stronger, and that’s the goal.”

While the Ravens will get their first true look at the players on the field doing actual football drills soon enough, it appears as if anything and everything is being done to at least make their bodies as healthy and resilient as possible in the meantime.

Knock on wood!

 

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Brian Bower

About Brian Bower

Brian Bower is avid football fan, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He has covered the Baltimore Ravens and NFL player positives in the community for the past 6 years. This will be his 3rd season with the Russell Street Report. His work has been featured on NFL.com, ESPN blogs, Comcast SportsNet Baltimore, as well as the Baltimore Ravens web page. He is also a regular guest on local radio and ESPN Radio in Honolulu, Hawaii. Brian is very involved in the community and has spent the last twenty years as a volunteer firefighter. Email him at [email protected] More from Brian Bower

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