Ravens running back JK Dobbins, who missed the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL, returned to practice Monday, bringing him one step closer to playing in next month’s season opener.
Dobbins passed his physical Monday and participated in positional and individual drills without a brace on his left knee. He left practice about 40 minutes early, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated that Dobbins would “add a little bit more every day” at training camp, and the team would “see how he handles it, and see how the knee responds.”
Harbaugh said Dobbins, who did not appear to favor the knee as he went through drills, “looked pretty good in individual” work. Running back Mike Davis said Monday that Dobbins has told him that he’s playing in the preseason, and running backs coach Craig Ver Steeg said Dobbins has been “chomping at the bit” to return.
But with Gus Edwards (knee) doubtful for Week 1, the Ravens will be cautious with Dobbins, their most talented and explosive runner. Ver Steeg declined to speculate on whether Dobbins could be ready for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the New York Jets.
“I’m not going to even go there, because my job each day is to go out there with JK and get him to that point,” Ver Steeg said. “I think that there’s another good point here, too, that there are seven guys [at the position]. Two are working their way back. Five are out there. I see No. 1 potential in every guy. My job is to make every guy push themselves to be a No. 1. And JK, we all know he can be. Let’s see how he progresses.”
Dobbins is the first Raven to be activated off the team’s physically-unable-to-perform list. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (Achilles tendon), cornerback Marcus Peters (knee), safety Ar’Darius Washington (foot) and Edwards all have not been cleared to practice.
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Dobbins missed last season after he injured his knee during the Ravens’ preseason finale against Washington. Harbaugh said last week that Dobbins was in a “hurry” to get back onto the field. Early in Monday’s practice, he embraced Ravens team chaplain Johnny Chaplain for about 15 seconds before jogging over to a drill.
Running back Justice Hill, who also missed all of last season, said Dobbins “looks great. He’s been looking great. We’ve been working out here in the offseason, too, and it’s his time. He’s ready to come back and show what he can do. Coming off of an injury is a big thing for me, him, Gus. So when we get out here, we just want to show that we’re good and ready to go.”
Dobbins, a second-round draft pick in 2020, made a strong 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 star in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense.
In the 11 months since his knee injury, Dobbins has largely stayed off social media, keeping the progress of his rehabilitation private. But after an NFL Network report last month said his availability in the Ravens’ season opener was “no sure thing,” Dobbins said on Twitter, “I’m damn sure going to be ready for week 1.”
He appears to be on track for that.
Note: Wide receiver Rashod Bateman also returned to practice after missing two days with what Harbaugh said was a minor soft-tissue injury. Defensive back Brandon Stephens has now missed a week with a soft-tissue injury. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey sat out his second straight practice, while rookie wide receiver Devon Williams, offensive tackle David Sharpe and safety Tony Jefferson were also absent.