Baltimore Ravens rookie center Tyler Linderbaum recently suffered a re-occurrence of a lisfranc injury, according to multiple reports. Linderbaum played through a similar injury at Iowa and the Ravens are allegedly hopeful Linderbaum can manage to play through the injury again without being shut down for a significant amount of time. It insinuates the issue isn’t new for Linderbaum, which adds intrigue to the developing story.
Notably, it’s reportedly a sprain and not the worst-case scenario of a rupture. As we await the results of more tests, there should be some level of concern regarding Linderbaum’s early-season availability.
The No. 25 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Linderbaum was quickly listed as the starting center on Baltimore’s first unofficial depth chart. It’s no surprise given that last year’s starting center, Bradley Bozeman, signed with the Carolina Panthers as an unrestricted free agent earlier this offseason. Bozeman played more than 1,000 snaps at center for the Ravens last season. Linderbaum was expected to immediately step into that role.
Linderbaum suffered the setback midway through Thursday’s practice and exited early with trainers. He’s already been ruled out of Baltimore’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans this Thursday. There remains hope that Linderbaum could return for their second preseason contest against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, August 21, which occurs a full 10 days after the Titans game. Baltimore’s exhibition finale is a Week 3 showdown against the Washington Commanders on August 27. If Linderbaum doesn’t feature in either of those contests, it’s plausible to believe his absence may continue into the regular season.
Questions and concerns about Linderbaum’s playing weight reigned supreme throughout the pre-draft process. There are few success stories to be found among sub-300-pound offensive linemen across the league. It prompted Linderbaum to beef up in preparation for the draft. Linderbaum weighed 296 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. It potentially adds an additional layer to a foot injury that has thus far refused to go away permanently.
The Ravens could ill-afford to be without Linderbaum’s services for an extended period of time. They currently lack the depth to appropriately navigate his absence without a drop-off. Swing offensive lineman Patrick Mekari is currently listed as the backup center. Mekari is primarily a tackle that played more than 750 snaps at right tackle for the Ravens last season. A four-year veteran, Mekari earned some snaps at center in 2019 and 2020 but did not feature at the position at all in 2021. Mekari is a quality offensive lineman, but center isn’t his primary position. Former undrafted free agent Trystan Colon out of Missouri is listed as the third-team center. Colon played 115 snaps at center last season due to injury, via Pro Football Focus.
Baltimore’s lack of depth at center doesn’t mean they should rush Linderbaum back, however. A foot injury is a serious ailment, particularly for an offensive lineman that places so much weight and stress on their lower half, especially one that’s spent time adding weight over the past few months. The fact that Linderbaum previously dealt with this injury at some point in college indicates it never fully healed or received the proper treatment it required and time didn’t make it go away altogether. The Ravens must prioritize the long-term health of their first-round selection, even if it means suffering through whatever time period his absence may require.
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