By Samuel Njoku
A large reason for the Ravens success in the postseason is the health of their roster. Prior to the playoffs, a number of their players were either unable to play or hurt enough to the point where the injury affected their play. Once again, Baltimore will enter the AFC Championship game relatively healthy. But there are a few players that the Ravens should be concerned with.
Asa Jackson, CB, (thigh): Out
Jackson returned to Denver after service a 4-game suspension. The time away from football had a lot to do with the thigh injury he suffered last week. The hamstring injury will force the Ravens to look for help on special teams. Luckily, David Reed looks like he may play in New England.
Bernard Pierce, RB, (knee): Questionable
Pierce re-aggravated his knee during his game against Denver. He has been limited in practice for most of the week and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. It would be a huge boost to the running game if he is available to complement Ray Rice in the running game. Pierce made it very clear what his intentions are for the game against New England.
“I’m feeling good,” Pierce stated. “Basically, it just took time. I wasn’t really getting any rest I’m feeling pretty good this week. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I was going to play, regardless.”
Players have been this confident before only to be seen on the sideline in street clothes. But all signs point to Pierce playing in the AFC Championship.
Dannell Ellerbe, LB, (back/ankle): Questionable
If there is one player that Baltimore can ill-afford to have off the field, it’s Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe. The Ravens have a nice tandem of linebackers in the middle with Ray Lewis and Ellerbe. Lost in the Ray Lewis retirement storyline is the play of Dannell. His absence would be felt more than that of Bernard Pierce. But there is no reason for fans to worry. Ellerbe fully participated in practice on Wednesday and Thursday before being limited on Friday. It would be shocking if Ellerbe didn’t suit up on Sunday.
Vonta Leach, FB, (knee/ankle): Questionable
Leach is still dealing with an injury he suffered in Week 17 against the Bengals. The Ravens full back remains one of the toughest players in the NFL. The Ravens have done a great job with resting him and will do so for the remainder of the season. Expect Leach to play against the Patriots.
Rob Gronkowski out for the rest of the season
The Ravens caught a break with the injury to Rob Gronkowski. The Pro Bowl tight end re-injured his forearm and has been placed on IR. The Patriots will use Aaron Hernandez as their primary tight end. Many believe the Patriots play better without Gronkowski. But you don’t get better when you lose a player of his caliber. It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots plan to move the ball consistently without their effected two-TE set.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.