Friday, May 17, 2013
Eight in the Box: Returning from injury
By Jamison Hensley
A look at key players for each AFC North team who are coming back from injuries:
Baltimore Ravens: Cornerback Lardarius Webb. The Ravens need their top cornerback to return to his old form, especially with Cary Williams going to the Eagles in free agency. Webb tore his ACL in October and missed the final 10 games of the regular season. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Webb "should be ready to roll" by training camp. Baltimore could bring him along slowly and limit his playing time in the preseason. But, based on this timeline, all signs point to Webb being ready to play in the season opener. If Webb isn't ready, the Ravens' top three corners would be Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown. Webb dealt with a torn ACL in 2009, when he hurt his knee in late December. He was able to return and play 15 games the following season. So, he's been able to recover from this injury quickly in the past.
Cincinnati Bengals: Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. He's the favorite to be the Bengals' No. 2 receiver and start opposite A.J. Green. A third-round pick last year, Sanu had worked himself into the starting lineup before breaking his left foot late in the season and undergoing surgery on Dec. 3. He expects to be running at full speed by next week's minicamp. Coach Marvin Lewis has high hopes for Sanu, saying he's ahead of where Chad Johnson was going into his second NFL season. Sanu was starting to hit his stride before the injury. In his last three games, he caught 11 passes and four touchdowns. Sanu will still have to earn the job. His main competition is Marvin Jones, a fifth-round pick from a year ago.
Cleveland Browns: Running back Trent Richardson. He said last month that he was fully recovered from all of last year's injures, and he wasn't wearing a protective sleeve over his knee anymore. But, in March, Richardson told The Plain Dealer that he might always have to deal with lingering pain from broken ribs after undergoing some tests. Richardson did say at that time that he expected to be 100 percent by training camp. Other than Richardson, the Browns aren't dealing with any critical injuries. Left guard Jason Pinkston returned to practice this week after having a blood clot in his lung that ended his 2012 season. Wide receiver David Nelson is still recovering from a torn ACL and he hopes to get on the field for June's mandatory minicamp. At this point, he's projected to be the No. 4 receiver.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Tight end Heath Miller. He's the biggest question mark in the division. After excelling in the first season of Todd Haley's offense, he tore ligaments in his right knee in the second-to-last game of the season and had surgery on Jan. 2. He's no longer on crutches and was spotted walking without a limp last month. The Steelers have been vague on Miller's timetable. Some believe that Miller will be ready for the start of the season after the Steelers passed on Tyler Eifert in the first round and didn't take a tight end in the draft. But there's still a chance that Miller could miss the start of the season or be placed on PUP. Losing Miller would significantly impact Pittsburgh's passing game. Last season, Miller led the Steelers in catches (71) and tied for the most touchdown catches (eight). Without Miller, the top two tight ends on the roster are Matt Spaeth and David Paulson. Spaeth has averaged eight catches per season, and Paulson had seven catches last season as a rookie.