Wa­ger against Fa­ther Time is a los­ing one

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Mike.pre­ston@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikePre­stonSun

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pre­sea­son with a torn Achilles ten­don.

Star re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr., 37, has missed a game and a half with an an­kle in­jury, and out­side linebacker Elvis Dumervil, 32, has played in just two games this sea­son after off­sea­son foot surgery.

And then came the news about Pro Bowl out­side linebacker Ter­rell Suggs. The 34-year-old will prob­a­bly miss at least a game and be ham­pered for the rest of the sea­son with torn left bi­cep.

A year ago, there was some com­pas­sion for the Ravens be­cause they had so many in­juries. But there will be no sym­pa­thy this sea­son. They had a chance to sever ties with some of these play­ers but took the chance that these play­ers could re­cover and stay healthy.

In some cases, they were ob­li­gated be­cause of con­tracts. In oth­ers, gen­eral man­ager Ozzie New­some wanted to be cheap or loyal. Re­gard­less, the Ravens are pay­ing for it be­cause the re­place­ments ei­ther aren’t ready or aren’t good enough.

When Wat­son went down, the Ravens acted as if they were cursed be­cause it was the third player (Suggs and Smith were the other two) to have suf­fered that spe­cific in­jury within a year. But they have some­thing else in com­mon.

By NFL stan­dards, they are old. When ath­letes hit 30, the chances of their tear­ing an Achilles in­creases. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Foot­ball League Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, the av­er­age ca­reer of an NFL player lasts 3.3 years, mean­ing Smith, Suggs, Wat­son, Dumervil and re­turn spe­cial­ist Devin Hes­ter Sr., who turns 34 next month, have been blessed by the foot­ball gods.

Quar­ter­back Joe Flacco, in his ninth sea­son, and guard Mar­shal Yanda, in his 10th, have also beaten the odds. But with each year, each game and each snap, the body wears down and be­comes more sus­cep­ti­ble to in­juries.

Play­ers who were once Pro Bowl­cal­iber have be­come less dom­i­nant.

Smith can play at a high level and still is a play­maker, but he can’t be counted on to play full time.

Suggs leads the team in sacks, but he is ba­si­cally just a run stop­per now, ef­fec­tively play­ing on one leg and with one arm. Dumervil has given the team as much as Wat­son and Hes­ter, which is to say prac­ti­cally noth­ing. He can’t even prac­tice, much less play.

Even the once-in­vin­ci­ble Flacco is start­ing to slow down.

The most cu­ri­ous in­jury is the shoul­der prob­lem suf­fered by Yanda. He has an ex­tremely high tol­er­ance for pain, so if he misses a sec­ond straight game Sun­day there is se­ri­ous cause for con­cern.

An even worse prob­lem for the Ravens is that they can’t du­pli­cate the pro­duc­tion lost be­cause of the ab­sences. Young play­ers such as re­ceivers Chris Moore, Bre­shad Per­ri­man and out­side lineback­ers Za’Dar­ius Smith and Ka­malei Cor­rea aren’t ready.

Re­serve of­fen­sive line­men James Hurst and Ryan Jensen aren’t good enough. Veteran safety Lar­dar­ius Webb, in his eighth year, plays hard but no longer has the skill or speed to be a play­maker.

It’s clear the Ravens are go­ing to have to part ways with some of these vet­er­ans at the end of the sea­son. In a way, it’s re­mark­able they are still a com­pet­i­tive team. The Ravens don’t need a to­tal makeover, but New­some might want to re-eval­u­ate the way some of his col­lege scouts choose tal­ent.

Ev­ery team likes to have sea­soned vet­er­ans be­cause of the lead­er­ship they can pro­vide, es­pe­cially for a se­ri­ous con­tender. But in those cases, it is usu­ally adding one or two.

The Ravens have to get rid of four or five.

Their gam­ble isn’t pay­ing off.

SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Ravens an­nounced Mon­day that 34-year-old out­side linebacker Ter­rell Suggs has a torn left bi­cep. The in­jury could ham­per him for the rest of the sea­son.

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