SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and his staff are trying to fill the void left by six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who tore his Achilles heel during the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ 19-13 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
There are players already on the roster Harbaugh believes can step in, and there are free agents available who may fit as well.
The Ravens, who are calling San Jose State home this week while preparing to play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, hope to find answers not only to their linebacker opening, but also to improve their running game and handling of the pass rush.
Suggs is expected to return home in a day or two to consult with doctors and then undergo season-ending surgery soon thereafter.
A couple of hours after Sunday’s game, Suggs tweeted an encouraging message:
“Chin up Ravens Nation. We’ve been here before … This changes NOTHING. Our mission is still the same.” He used the hashtags 2016SanFrancisco and RavensNation.
Harbaugh said the top candidates to assume bigger responsibilities are rookie Za’Darius Smith, 10-year veteran Elvis Dumervil and fourth-year player Courtney Upshaw.
“Za’Darius has been practicing well and it’s time to count on him,” Harbaugh said Monday. “He’s going to have to continue to improve. Sometimes guys get thrown into the fire and respond.
“We’ll still be evaluating our options personnel-wise. There are guys available out there and we’ll see if one of them might work in to what we do.”
Dumervil set a franchise record last year with 17 sacks and was named to his fourth Pro Bowl. He combined with Suggs to produce the most sacks by a duo (29) in the NFL.
Albert McClellan, who took over for an injured Suggs in 2012, has proven his versatility and will also see an increased role.
McClellan led the Ravens with 13 special team tackles last year. He had a career high 42 tackles, including a sack, in 2012.
Upshaw started 14 games a year ago, producing 42 tackles. He assumed a starting role as a rookie in 2012, with a career-high 60 tackles.
Suggs injured his tendon while trying to avoid a blocker during a pass rush. He walked off the field under his own power and was then carted into the locker room. It’s the second time he has sustained the injury.
“Guys get hurt. You have to plug guys in,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the nature of the NFL.”
Harbaugh said the offense was more conservative because of the way the defense played. “We were being patient with the running game,” he said. “We’ve still got to get more out of it. We can run the ball.”
Harbaugh credited the Broncos for their pass rush but also said the offensive line could have done a better job.
“The speed rush off the edges were an issue for us. Our tackles have to do a better job,” he said. “They’ve got to set square and they’ve got to punch. When they do that, they can play against anybody.”
Left Tackle Eugene Monroe left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with a concussion.
Running Back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who did not play against the Broncos because of a knee injury, took to Twitter to say he was optimistic about playing this week.
“There’s way too much chatter on social media,” Harbaugh said. “Players don’t do injury reports. If he’s optimistic, then I am optimistic. Maybe Twitter fines will become part of the program.”
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)