Yanda is the anchor of the offensive line and an emotional leader that players on both sides of the ball admire. So, when Yanda when down Sunday against the Browns with a season-ending fracture in his foot, his teammates understood the gravity of the loss.
Yanda’s absence leaves a huge void in an offensive line that has already been decimated with injuries and a sudden retirement of John Urschel.
For now, Tony Bergstrom, who was acquired from Arizona just prior to the season, will fill Yanda’s role. But even coach Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted losing Yanda will be difficult to overcome.
“It’s tough emotionally,” Harbaugh said. “Even before I came here, everybody in the league knows about Marshal, how special he is, his excellence on the offensive line, and the way guys gravitate towards him, the leader that he is. So it’s definitely going to hurt.”
Yanda suffered the injury on the first play of the second half when he was part of pileup during a 2-yard run by running back Terrance West. Yanda walked off the field with trainers, but further tests revealed the fracture. The offensive line managed to perform effectively the rest of the way in the 24-10 win against a tiring Browns’ defense.
In addition to Bergstrom, Baltimore could promote offensive lineman Matt Skura from the practice squad. Skura spent time working with the first-team offense in training camp.
Yanda, who also underwent offseason shoulder surgery, is the fourth offensive lineman the team has lost this season. Second-year players Alex Lewis (shoulder) and rookie Nico Siragusa (knee), a fourth-round pick, endured season-ending injuries in training camp. Urschel, who was expected to compete for the starting job at center, decided to retire just hours before the first full-squad practice.
Yanda, though, is the biggest loss. He added toughness to the offensive line and set the tone with his battles in the trenches. Ravens’ coaches often tell younger players, regardless of their position, to follow Yanda’s work ethic and attention to detail so they can become better at their jobs.
“It hurts.” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He is a leader. There is not a word in English dictionary that can describe – well I can’t find one right now – what Marshal is to us. It hurts. That hurts to lose your bell cow. But, the Ravens, our motto is, ‘The next man up.’ We are going to miss him. We are going to miss him, but we still have to play Raven football. He would want us to play Raven football, and he would hold us to that standard.”
The Ravens face a tough challenge this week. The team is flying to London for the franchise’s first-ever game overseas. They will also have to deal with an aggressive Jaguars team that has a league-best 11 sacks over the first two games.
The Baltimore players are embracing the challenge. But they will have to win without one of their key leaders.
“This game is all about adapting to change,” right tackle Austin Howard said. “It can happen at any moment, and we’re used to that. But man, what a guy. He’s super tough, and to see him go down was shocking at first. You think he can fight through anything, and we’re so saddened to have him go down. We know we’re praying for him, his family, his wife, his kids. We know it’s a scary thing for them, and we wish him the best.”