The Ravens have not won a game since Dannell Ellerbe has been sidelined with an ankle injury. As a replacement for Ray Lewis following his triceps tear, Ellerbe was a bright spot in a struggling defense.
As surprising as it is to say, out of all the injured players this season, Ellerbe is possibly the one the Ravens currently miss the most (though Lardarius Webb may have a thing or two to say about that).
This season, Ellerbe has come into his own. After being given a second-round tender by the Ravens paying him $1.927 million this season, Ellerbe is playing for a new contract, one that surely will pay him more in Baltimore or elsewhere.
Following the Ravens’ bye week, Ellerbe and his squad put together a four-game win streak and never surrendered more than 20 points – the NFL’s best such streak at the time.
Unfortunately, Ellerbe injured his ankle during the first half of an overtime win against the San Diego Chargers.
With Ellerbe out, the Ravens have lost each game. Before the Ravens’ most recent game against the Denver Broncos, Ellerbe attempted to warm up but realized he still wasn’t able to play.
“I didn’t feel close,” he said. “If I felt close, I would’ve went. I wasn’t close at all.”
Ellerbe’s return the first two weeks after his injury wasn’t a realistic possibility, but the extra week off from sitting out against the Broncos appears to have helped him.
“All the weeks off have helped,” Ellerbe said. “The more time you get, the more rest you get, the better you’re going to feel. Hopefully I got enough.”
During Wednesday’s practice, Ellerbe was listed as limited on the injury report, but was seen walking out to the field during the portion of practice open to the media. His return to practice was encouraging and the team hopes his ankle is responding to reduced stress.
As for playing on Sunday against the New York Giants, Ellerbe isn’t able to put a percentage on his return.
“Nah, I don’t have a percentage,” he said. “Maybe in a high range. Maybe 80, 90, 100 (laughs).”
After losing Jameel McClain for the season with a spinal cord contusion, the Ravens linebacking corps are even thinner than when Ellerbe was injured. Josh Bynes was on the practice squad nine weeks ago but has now found himself with the communications helmet, relaying plays to his defensive teammates.
It’s evident the team needs Ellerbe, but he doesn’t want to rush back too soon and subject himself to further injury.
“It can mentally,” Ellerbe said when asked if he is trying to hurry his return. “But if my leg is not ready to go, it’s not going to cooperate. I wanted to go back out there the second half of the Chargers game. It just wasn’t happening.”
“When I come back, I plan on being back for the rest of the season.”
For a battered and reeling defense, his return can’t come soon enough.