BASEBALL PLAYOFFS FEATURE HEROES, HEARTBREAK (AGAIN)
Indians’ exit reaffirms regular-season success guarantees nothing.
The Cleveland Indians entered the playoffs having gone 33-4 since Aug. 23. Even after their 22-game winning streak — the longest by any American League team ever, the second-longest in baseball history — ended, they won 11 of their final 14 regular-season games. One of baseball’s greatest untruths-presentedas-truth is that a team needs to be hot entering the playoffs. Here, once and forever, is your rebuttal.
The Indians took the first two games of the ALDS, the second in rather astonishing fashion. They overrode an 8-3 deficit against the Yankees’
famous bullpen. Jay Bruce hit the tying home run off David Robertson. Just before Francisco Lindor’s galvanizing grand slam, Joe Girardi didn’t challenge what was called a
“If you have sensitivity to light, it’s best not to look at a TV or laptop, so I didn’t study until I was feeling 100 percent,” Schraeder said. “Obviously, getting back from a concussion was my most important deal. Taking care of myself, eating right, doing certain treatments.”
Make no mistake, the Falcons are happy to have Schraeder back.
The Falcons were the only NFL team last season to start the same five offensive linemen in all 16 regular-season games, and by the measure of Pro Football Focus the Falcons graded out as the No. 6 line unit in the league.
“Ryan’s been an extremely productive player for us the last couple years,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Any time you get a chance to get a good player like that back, it’s huge for the team.”
Even left tackle Jake Matthews, who works so far from Schraeder that he rarely hears his voice among all the chatter that goes on among offensive linemen before each NFL snap, is enthusiastic about the group being back together again.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “Ryan’s a really good player, so the linemen are excited to have him back.”
Matthews recalls what it’s like to have the gang together. Schraeder remembers only “parts” of the sequence of events when he got whacked in the back of his somewhat rare, and new, supersized VICIS helmet.
While out on a wide play, he encountered a Green Bay defensive back who went low to attempt to chop him down as a lead blocker. Upon going low himself, Schraeder got thumped in the back of the head.
It wasn’t the first time he was hit there, although when it comes to concussions Schraeder has never had one before. At least not officially.
“Not diagnosed,” said Schraeder, an undrafted free agent in 2013 from Valdosta State. “Who knows? I’ve seen stars before. We’ve probably all hit our head too hard before.”
After Schraeder’s concussion, he did not invest a second in studying for his job until Sept. 28, the Friday before the Falcons played the Bills. That’s when he returned to the team, and took in videotape.
He didn’t want to be away from the game that last November led him to sign a five-year, $31.5 million contract extension, but he wasn’t losing his mind while away. Schraeder missed his teammates and routine, but had no anxiety attacks.
The most important thing was to take care of himself.
“Nothing to where it was messing with my mind or anything,” he said of his frustration while in the NFL’s concussion protocol. “I’ve gotten pretty good about my focus. I try not to let it get outside of what I’m trying to do.”
Schraeder feels like he’s blending right back in, and that this week’s practices are no more important for him than if he’d been in a weekby-week routine all along, like last season. It’s just like he took a safety timeout.
“Yeah, well, our whole mindset is that we’re not changing how we’re doing things,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and get my groove, my rhythm going again.”
For all the commentary while Schraeder was out for two-plus games about how the right side of the Falcons’ offensive line was off with first-time right guard Wes Schweitzer and sub right tackle Ty Sambrailo, the Falcons’ group still — through Week 5 of the NFL schedule — is ranked No. 6 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Schraeder’s return figures to help.
All-Pro center Alex Mack said nothing changed schematically while Ryan was gone, yet a more established and experienced player is back in the house.
“Ryan is feeling good, he’s back in the game and ... nothing changes,” Mack said. “Our rules are our rules. We usually do the same thing.”
The Indians watch during the ninth inning Wednesday night as the series against the Yankees slips away. Their record 22-game winning streak in the regular season didn’t mean much in the playoffs as New York advanced to the AL Championship Series.
Right tackle Ryan Schraeder (left) returns Sunday, and left tackle Jake Matthews says his linemates are “excited to have him back.”
Isaac Nauta gets past Mississippi State’s Mark McLaurin for a touchdown during a victory last month. Nauta says he’s expecting to play a bigger role as Georgia’s SEC season progresses.