Ravens running back JK Dobbins, who missed the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL, returned to practice Monday, bringing it one step closer to next month’s season opener.
Dobbins had his physical on Monday and participated in positional and individual exercises without a left knee brace. He left practice about 40 minutes early, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Dobbins would “add a little more every day” to training camp, and the team would “see how he manages that and how the knee reacts”.
Harbaugh said Dobbins, who didn’t seem to favor the knee during his exercises, “looked pretty good in individual work.” Running back Mike Davis said Monday that Dobbins told him he was playing in the preseason, and running backs coach Craig Ver Steeg said Dobbins was “looking forward to coming back.”
But with Gus Edwards (knee) doubtful for Week 1, the Ravens will be careful with Dobbins, their most talented and explosive runner. Ver Steeg declined to speculate on whether Dobbins might be ready for the Sept. 11 regular season opener against the New York Jets.
“I’m not even going to go there, because my job every day is to go out there with JK and get him to that point,” Ver Steeg said. “I think there’s another good point here too, that there are seven guys [at the position]. Two are coming back. Five are there. I see the No. 1 potential in every guy. My job is to make every guy push himself to be a No. 1. And JK, we all know he can be. Let’s see how it progresses.
Dobbins is the first Raven to be activated on the team’s list of physically unable to perform. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (Achilles tendon), cornerback Marcus Peters (knee), safety Ar’Darius Washington (foot) and Edwards were not all cleared to practice.
Dobbins missed last season after injuring his knee in the Ravens’ preseason finale against Washington. Harbaugh said last week that Dobbins was “in a hurry” to get back on the court. At the start of Monday’s practice, he hugged Ravens team chaplain Johnny Chaplain for about 15 seconds before running to a drill.
Running back Justice Hill, who also missed all of last season, said Dobbins “looked great. He looks great. We also worked here in the offseason, and it’s his time. He’s ready to come back and show what he can do. Coming out of injury is a big thing for me, him, Gus. So when we get here we just want to show we’re good and ready to go.
Dobbins, a 2020 second-round draft pick, made a big impression as a rookie, when he led all running backs in yards per carry (6.0). He finished with 805 yards and nine touchdowns on 134 attempts. After a promising training camp last summer, he was expected to play in the Ravens’ offense.
In the 11 months since his knee injury, Dobbins has largely stayed off social media, keeping his rehabilitation progress private. But after a report from the NFL Network last month said his availability in the Ravens’ season opener was “not sure,” Dobbins said on Twitter, “I’m damn sure I’ll be ready. for week 1.”
He seems to be on the right track for that.
To note: Wide receiver Rashod Bateman also returned to practice after missing two days with what Harbaugh called a minor soft tissue injury. Defensive back Brandon Stephens has now missed a week with a soft tissue injury. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey missed his second straight practice, while rookie receiver Devon Williams, offensive tackle David Sharpe and safety Tony Jefferson were also absent.