OWINGS MILLS — The legend of gritty Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda grew a bit Wednesday with his revelation that he underwent emergency surgery on his lower right leg following a win over the Cleveland Browns.
Not only did Yanda play through bruised ribs and loose cartilage one week later against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it was after having surgery to address a bout with compartment syndrome after getting kicked in the calf against the Browns.
The muscles, blood vessels and nerves compressed inside the Pro Bowl blocker’s leg, requiring surgery on Christmas Eve to alleviate the pressure. If it had gone untreated, the muscle tissue could have died and required the leg to be amputated. Fortunately, Yanda got the surgery done in time.
"I got leg-whipped in my calf area," Yanda said. "They had to do emergency surgery that night and slit the muscle open to release the pressure. It was a nasty scar and a [crappy] way to spend Christmas Eve, but that was the way it was. I was fighting that, too. That was really sore and my ribs."
A week later, though, Yanda was back on the field and delivered the key block on Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice’s first touchdown run against the Bengals.
The Ravens listed the injury as a thigh contusion, which made Yanda laugh.
"It’s over with now," Yanda said. "I got the stitches out and my leg feels good."
Voted second-team All-Pro, Yanda made the most of the Ravens’ bye and isn’t even listed on the injury report heading into an AFC divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.
"The bye week was huge as far as getting me rested up," Yanda said. "My ribs feel better. Hopefully, they don’t get knocked before the game or anything like that. I would say if I fell on them right now, that wouldn’t be a good thing. So we’re being smart with it."
HEALTHY TEAM: The Ravens have a clean bill of health.
Every player practiced Wednesday, including special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo.
He was limited with a sprained quadriceps.
As predicted by coach John Harbaugh, every player was able to practice and appears to be on schedule to play Sunday.
Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Tom Zbikowski and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe all passed their baseline neurological tests after suffering concussions late in the season and were able to participate fully in practice.
"The three guys who had concussion issues have all been cleared, as we anticipated," Harbaugh said. "So, they are good to go."
Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (sprained medial collateral ligament) wasn’t listed on the injury report.
Ayanbadejo’s right quadriceps injury is the most serious issue the Ravens are still dealing with.
"Jameel and Brendon continue to rehab and are making good progress," Harbaugh said. "Again, we’ll have to see how it goes, but we do anticipate them playing on Sunday."
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (torn meniscus) and Zbikowski, Smith and Ellerbe all participated fully.
Boldin missed the final two games of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery on Dec. 22.
"Anquan looks good," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Obviously, he had to heal himself up a little bit. I’m glad we gave him a couple of weeks to get fresh. Those extra weeks, I think definitely helped, not only him but a couple of guys on our team.
"I think he’s going to provide that spark, I really do. Obviously, he’s one of our best players and any time you can have a guy come back right at the right time, especially a guy that has been off his feet for the past few week, I think that helps."
For the Texans, offensive guard Mike Brisiel (ankle), tight end Owen Daniels (hand, knee), wide receiver Andre Johnson (knee) and safety Troy Nolan (ankle) were limited.
Participating fully for the Texans: linebacker Mister Alexander (shoulder), cornerback Jason Allen (thumb), linebacker Bryan Braman (neck), fullback James Casey (knee, foot), nose guard Shaun Cody (knee), tight end Joel Dreesen (knee), cornerback Sherrick McManis (ankle), center Chris Myers (knee), linebacker Brooks Reed (knee), running back Ben Tate (shoulder), offensive tackle Eric Winston (calf) and quarterback T.J. Yates (left shoulder).
REUNION REDUX: Strong safety Bernard Pollard and fullback Vonta Leach already squared off with the Texans once, defeating their former teammates during a 29-14 victory during the regular season.
And both starters are taking a similar approach as they did for that game, insisting that this matchup carries no extra emotions.
"It’s really just another game," said Leach, who wasn’t retained as an unrestricted free agent by the AFC South champions despite blocking for Arian Foster when he was the NFL rushing champion last season. "The situation that happened between us wasn’t personal. It was business and it worked out for them and it worked out for me.
"It was a win-win situation, nothing sentimental. After the game, we’re still going to be friends. In between the whistles, we’re enemies. To advance to the next round no matter who it is, we need to win."
Proud of his old team, Pollard signed a two-year contract with Baltimore in August.
"I still continue to say it’s not about me," Pollard said. "It’s about us as a team getting ready to play football. We’ve got to get ready to play. We want to go to the third round."
Even though the Texans chose not to retain Leach or Pollard, that doesn’t mean that they don’t respect the two veteran starters.
"They’re very physical players," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "Vonta, he’s the best there is in the business at his position, and he has worked really, really hard to get there. I’ve watched his growth, and just very proud of him. He sets the tone for you offensively and the job that he does leading the way in the run game.
"Bernard’s the same way defensively. He fits right in with your group. You’re a physical defensive football team and very aggressive, and that’s Bernard as a player, and he’s been a nice fit for you all. So, I’m very proud of both of them. They’re good guys, they worked their butt off for me, and I’ve got a good relationship with them and I’m happy to see their success and both of them doing well."
QUICK HITS: Kubiak was asked about the Denver Broncos’ playoff loss to the Ravens during the 2000 season. Kubiak was on the Broncos’ coaching staff at the time as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "Hell yeah, I remember," Kubiak said. "I came in there with Gus Frerotte as my quarterback, am I right? I remember that very well. You know, you guys have had tremendous defense for many, many years, but I remember how great that one was. It’s a tough place to play. You guys have got a great crowd, but that’s part of this time of year. If you last this long, and you’re in the final eight, you’re going to have to do something special to win on Sunday. So we understand that, and we have a lot of respect for your organization and your football team." … The additions of Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning have bolstered the Texans’ secondary. "Well, he and Manning have both been huge," Kubiak said. "We knew we were getting two good players to add to our defense, not having an offseason and that type of thing, but I don’t think we had any idea what type of leadership we were getting and how quick we got it. They’ve both done a hell of a job; they obviously both got turnovers last week. They’ve been a big, big difference in the confidence of our defense and how well we’ve been able to grow kind of quickly this year without the offseason." …
Andre Johnson said he has recovered well from the hamstring injury that sidelined him against Baltimore earlier this season. "I feel pretty good," Johnson said. "I haven’t had any setbacks in the past couple of weeks. I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’ve been going full in practices, so I expect to be playing at a high level on Sunday. At times, I don’t feel like I’m explosive as I was before I had the surgery and everything. As weeks go on and the more I do, my explosiveness is starting to come back. I think that’s just going to come back with time." …A frequent critic of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs gave the former Heisman Trophy winner his due respect following a dramatic overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers where he delivered the game-winning touchdown pass. "I think everybody is pretty shocked," Suggs said, "but congratulations to him."