Baltimore Ravens are built to last, but reality hits hard after J.K. Dobbins injury

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When you report at NFL training camps, interviewing people is often a balancing act, with 80 or so players and all the coaches coming off the field at nearly the same time. Last Monday morning around 11:15, the Ravens’ PR staff and I had a four-man weave going as the team finished practice. I needed coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Lamar Jackson, tackle Alejandro Villanueva and the man the offense hoped to get 300 touches this year, running back J.K. Dobbins. None of the interviews can be very long, lest you lose one or two you really need.

Jackson would be sometime later. Villanueva came first, as he walked off the field. Then I got shuttled to Harbaugh, and had a three-way chat with him and owner Steve Bisciotti. That left Dobbins. While with Harbaugh, I noticed Dobbins out of the corner of my eye, waiting for me to finish, and the problem was, I’d barely started with Harbaugh. Dobbins just waited. Three, four, five, six minutes. I’ve had a lot of experience doing these things, and I can tell you that the player often doesn’t wait. Maybe I’d get him later in the day, maybe it’s a washout.

Dobbins, in shorts, white socks and no shoes, waited.

“Pleasure to meet you!” Dobbins said.

We’d never spoken before, and I remembered reading something about his disappointment at sliding down to the 55th pick of the 2020 draft coming out of Ohio State, despite having a comparable college career to Ezekiel Elliott. I wanted to make the point to him that after covering the league for a long time, one of the verities I’d learned was it doesn’t matter how high you are picked; it matters who picks you. I never got to the statistical point I was ready to make, that Baltimore has rushed for 1,400 more yards than anyone in football the past two years, and nobody in this day and age runs it 56 percent of the offensive snaps . . . except the team he’s on, the team that saw him average 6.0 yards per carry as a rookie, the team that’s nirvana for a running back. That team had a blueprint to use J.K. Dobbins a ton in 2021.

“How much do you want that?” I asked.

Dobbins made a “phew!” sound. He paused a second, then said:

“How much do I want it? Man, let me think,” he said. “Let me think of some analogy here. I want that more than a person wants to breathe. I want to be that guy because that’s just who I am. I wanna be the best. Why not me? I train with one of the best—Dalvin Cook. We’re best buddies. He was second in scrimmage yards in the league last year.

“I’m just thinking, every day I lay my head down, my mind is racing about how to be the best. I went to the same college as Ezekiel Elliott. I had more yards than him. Why not me in the NFL? I want that. I wanna be the bell cow. I wanna be the guy that my teammates look to like, We wanna be on your shoulders. My offensive line is looking at me like, We want this guy to run behind us. I can feel it from them. I’ve been working hard for it. I think I’m ready for it if that opportunity comes.”

Saturday. Five days later. Preseason finale at Washington. Ninth offensive snap of the game for Baltimore, with the first unit getting a final cameo before the opener 16 days away in Las Vegas. Dobbins caught a short pass out of the backfield from Lamar Jackson, and got sandwiched, WFT corner Jimmy Moreland hitting him from the front at the left knee and linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk dragging him down from the back.

Immediately, WFT linebacker Khaleke Hudson began waving to the Baltimore sidelines for a trainer. As the play unpiled, Dobbins didn’t get up. He grabbed his left knee.

“Look out,” said Ravens TV voice Gerry Sandusky on the telecast. “J.K. Dobbins, injured on the play and clutching his leg. And this . . .”

Sandusky paused.

“. . . is a potential worst-case scenario.”

With the Dallas-Tampa Bay season-opener 10 days away, there’s much still to be decided all over the league. Among the issues: 864 players getting released or IR’d on 32 teams before 4 p.m. ET Tuesday . . . 512 players to be re-signed to practice squads . . . a flurry of trades that’s already started (Sony MichelShaun WadeGardner Minshew and Lawson replacing Lawson with the Jets), with teams looking to move players they’d likely cut . . . the fate of Deshaun Watson possibly in the balance (but I’m dubious) before cutdown . . . Covid still likely to play havoc with some team before Week 1, despite 93 percent of NFL players being vaccinated . . . a slew of players trying to make it back for opening weekend (including almost every significant Giants skill player) . . . Hurricane Ida leaving some uncertainty in New Orleans and the NFL TV schedule in Week 1 . . . and a man who wears a sweatshirt reading “ANALYZE MORE NEVER GUESS” being thrown a rotten curveball just before roster cutdown, wondering if he should sit still with the roster he’s built or go chase a running back to replace his bell cow.

Worst-case scenario.

The worst case was realized after an MRI on Sunday. J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL on Saturday night when his left knee hyperextended inward; per Mike Garofolo of NFL Network, the damage might be more than just the ACL. Dobbins is gone for the year. It’s likely no contending team suffered a bigger injury in August than the Ravens did in losing Dobbins for the year, and it left GM Eric DeCosta perusing the running-back market (Houston’s Phillip Lindsay? Indy’s Nyheim Hines?) or thinking the Ravens can survive with roster-depth powerback Gus Edwards and youngsters Ty’Son Williams and Justice Hill. The Ravens were deep in personnel meetings Sunday trying to figure it all out. And DeCosta, the wearer of ANALYZE MORE NEVER GUESS, was likely leaning in part on his burgeoning analytics team to help him decide. My guess: Baltimore will stand pat, because of its faith in Edwards, and because Williams has opened eyes throughout camp.

Baltimore Ravens v Washington Football Team
Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins receiving medical attention after being injured Saturday. (Getty Images)

Crucial players disappear. That’s life in the NFL. My story out of Baltimore was going to be how the Ravens always seem to figure it out. They’re never bad. They went 5-11 in 2015; that’s John Harbaugh’s only losing season out of 13. They have to be good every year to compete with the Steelers, who are just as impressive. (Regular-season and playoff wins from 2011-20: Baltimore 104, Pittsburgh 104.)

Now it’s up to DeCosta (the Ravens are 26-9 since he took the GM reins from Ozzie Newsome two years ago) and Harbaugh to be sure the Dobbins injury doesn’t derail their hopes for the season.

Every year I’ve been at Ravens’ camp, the drill is similar. I look out on the field and see two or three vet free-agents, or vets acquired in trade, dropped out of the sky onto a contending team. This year, there are four newbies: right tackle Alejandro Villanueva, right guard Kevin Zeitler, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and pass-rusher Justin Houston. As a class, that’s a pretty impressive foursome. Near the end of my time with Harbaugh, he nodded to a trio of players walking off the field behind me: Houston and two young front-seven players.

“Justin’s teaching ‘em,” Harbaugh said. “How great is that?”

Houston’s agent, Joel Segal, called DeCosta a couple of times after Houston’s time in Indianapolis ended last winter. DeCosta told Segal the Ravens just didn’t have the cap money to go after Houston. Make an offer, Segal said. I don’t want to insult a guy who will be a Hall of Fame candidate one day, DeCosta said. Meanwhile, cornerback Marcus Peters, one of Houston’s good friends, texted DeCosta in all-caps one day: JUSTIN HOUSTON. Finally, DeCosta told Segal he’d make an offer. One year, $2 million. DeCosta felt almost embarrassed, and for a player coming off a two-year, $18-million deal in Indy, the offer was a major comedown. Houston settled for a year and $2.075 million. He just wanted to play for the Ravens.

That’s one benefit for Harbaugh and this team: Even when the money’s relatively low, vets with something left still want to come. “I always try to make sure guys understand, Hey, this is what you’re getting into. These are our standards. This is what we believe in. This is our world view,” Harbaugh said. “These guys tell us they know, they’ve talked to our guys and they know. That makes me feel good, that our guys are saying good things about our program.”

Harbaugh credits Bisciotti for setting the stage; Bisciotti watches tape of draft prospects so when he sits in on draft discussions he can understand why DeCosta is high and low on various players. It’s hard to give a Cliff’s Notes explanation of the Ravens’ pursuit of excellence, but Harbaugh tried:

“I think it’s just a relentless persistence in everything you do, all the time, to be as good as you can be. Whether it’s scheme—we’re never satisfied with our scheme—or how we teach our scheme to make sure our players understand what we’re trying to get accomplished.

“We try not to live in a world of gray. We live in a world of black and white when we teach. We tell players, This is what we want you to do. This is what we want it to look like. Crystal clear. Every play we run, every defense we call, every special-teams rep we take. What stems from that is a real clear vision in terms of what type of players you have, what the roles are. And you try to get the type of players that fit those roles. Then the other piece is the type of personality, character, work ethic that fits what’s gonna be expected. It’s gonna be a lot of work. You come here, you know you’re gonna work. It’s gonna be football-based. We get guys who embrace that.”

The other part of the Ravens I’ve always thought was important is this: Most teams get apoplectic when big-money players reach free agency and it looks like they might leave. The Ravens almost welcome it. Huge contracts elsewhere for players like C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue mean savings for the Ravens cap, plus Compensatory Draft Picks. The Ravens lead the league in those extra draft choices over the past 20 years. Harbaugh, Newsome and DeCosta have thick skin, and they can take the sky-is-falling fan sentiment when big vets leave; they know it’s part of a smart circle of life in the NFL.

That doesn’t make days like Sunday any better for earnest people like Dobbins, who provided a huge boost for the offense last year as his workload increased. The Ravens have been worn down this summer by soft-tissue injuries to key offensive weapons Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Miles Boykin and Rashod Bateman. Now the biggest injury of them all. Days before his season ended at FedEx Field, Dobbins was smiling about his professional fate. “Coming here was God’s way of calming me down and letting me know I’m in the right place,” Dobbins said.

There will be time to consider everything else with this story, particularly what erasing a potential hugely productive season will do for a back scheduled to earn $870,000 in the second year of a four-year second-round deal. But a bright prospect with a starry season ahead of him on a likely playoff team is done in August, and it stinks. Just another reminder how unforgiving the NFL can be.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column.

2022 NFL Christmas Schedule: TV Schedule, live stream info, what teams are playing, kickoff times, and more

Here is the full 2022 NFL Christmas Schedule with additional how to watch/live stream info
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Christmas falls on a weekend this year which means the NFL is giving the gift of a full, three-day slate of action. The excitement kicks off on Christmas Eve–Saturday, December 24–with 11 total games taking place including an NFC East showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, December 25, the NFL will have a Christmas Day triple-header for the first time ever. First, at 1:00 PM ET, the Green Bay Packers take on the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Then at 4:30 p.m. ET, it’s the Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. At 8:20 p.m. ET the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go head-to-head with the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with a special Christmas Day edition of Football Night in America on NBC and Peacock.

See below for the full 2022 NFL Christmas schedule as well as additional information on how to watch/live stream each match-up.

RELATED: FMIA Week 12 – Josh Jacobs Takes Heckling Personally, And A Banner Week For Two-Point Conversion Risks

2022 NFL Christmas Weekend Schedule:

*All times are listed as ET

Saturday, Dec. 24
Atlanta Falcons vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m., FOX
Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., FOX
Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m., CBS
New Orleans Saints vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., CBS
Seattle Seahawks vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m., FOX
New York Giants vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m., FOX
Cincinnati Bengals vs. New England Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., CBS
Washington Commanders vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., FOX
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m., NFLN
Sunday, Dec. 25
Green Bay Packers vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., FOX
Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Rams, 4:30 p.m., CBS/Nickelodeon
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Arizona Cardinals, 8:20 p.m., NBC/Peacock
Monday, Dec. 26
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Which NFL teams are playing on Christmas Day?

  • Green Bay Packers vs Miami Dolphins
  • Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Rams
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Arizona Cardinals

How to watch Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Arizona Cardinals:

  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • When: Sunday, December 25
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Arizona Cardinals game?

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your tailgating needs for the 2022 Fall season, click here!

Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

How to watch Indianapolis Colts vs Dallas Cowboys: TV, live stream info for Sunday night’s game

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It’s the Indianapolis Colts vs Dallas Cowboys this Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock with Football Night in America. See below for additional information on how to watch tonight’s game.

RELATED: FMIA Week 12 – Josh Jacobs Takes Heckling Personally, And A Banner Week For Two-Point Conversion Risks

Indianapolis Colts

Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts fell 24-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night in their 7th loss of the season and 2nd loss under interim head coach Jeff Saturday. Saturday, a former Colts center with no professional or college coaching experience prior to this season, took over after the Colts fired Frank Reich ahead of Week 10. Reich spent 5 seasons with the Colts, reaching the playoffs just twice (2018, 2020) and finishing with a 40-33-1 record in the regular season. Indianapolis’ offensive struggles have continued this season after ranking 10th in scoring last season at 26.5 points per game. Entering Week 13, the Colts are averaging 15.8 points per game–they’re tied with the Texans who are ranked 31st in the league. Ryan went 22-of-34 for 199 yards with a touchdown and an interception in Monday night’s loss. RB Jonathan Taylor rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

RELATED: Jeff Saturday on not using timeouts – “I thought we had plenty of time”

Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys completed the season series sweep with a 28-20 win over the New York Giants last Thursday evening. Prescott finished 21-of-30 for 261 passing yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. RB Ezekiel Elliot, who was playing in his second game since returning from a knee injury, rushed for a season-high 92 yards and ignited the Cowboys’ offense scoring the first touchdown of the game. On defense, the Cowboys had 3 sacks–two of them were from OLB Micah Parsons who ranks 2nd in the league with 12 sacks this season. Dallas currently has one of the best defenses in the NFL and leads all teams with 45 sacks this season. The Cowboys have won 4 of their last 5 games and enter Week 13 just two games behind Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East lead.

RELATED: Dak Prescott – I am as confident as I can be in this team


How to watch the Indianapolis Colts vs Dallas Cowboys:

  • Where: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
  • When: Sunday, December 4
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the Indianapolis Colts vs Dallas Cowboys Game

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your tailgating needs for the 2022 Fall season, click here!

Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!