A day after their last-minute comeback in Jacksonville, the Ravens are back in survival mode.
The celebration from Sunday's thrilling 24-21 victory over the Jaguars ended with troubling news yesterday. The Ravens learned that starting running back Jason Brookins could be out for the rest of the season with a broken right foot, and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams will miss at least one game after deciding to undergo surgery on his right knee.
The injuries come at positions where the Ravens have been hit the hardest.
Brookins, the team's leading rusher this season, is the third Ravens back to go down for an extended period and will be replaced by career backup Moe Williams. Meanwhile, the defensive line will likely have only one of its regular starters available Sunday - defensive tackle Tony Siragusa - with Adams, Rob Burnett (calf) and Michael McCrary (knee) all hurt.
But adversity doesn't appear to scare a Ravens team that has fought to a 7-4 record despite losing three starters.
"The alternative is to roll up in the proverbial ball and call for your momma," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "But that's not our intention. This team will fight through it and not blink. Everybody has to deal with injuries, and so will we."
Although Brookins said he doesn't know when he injured his foot, he did grab it after getting tackled by T.J. Slaughter at the Jaguars' 3-yard line with 14 seconds left in the game.
Yesterday, he noticed swelling in the foot, and the team decided to do X-rays. The results revealed a fracture of a bone in his small toe, meaning he will be out a minimum of four weeks.
A veteran of three practice squads as well as NFL Europe in a year's span, Brookins was beginning to fill the season-long void at running back for the Ravens, who have lost Jamal Lewis (torn knee ligament) for the season and will be without Terry Allen (broken hand) for at least another week.
Now, the Ravens turn to their fourth option in Williams, a six-year veteran signed five days before the season opener. He has had only one NFL start and has only 88 carries in 75 career games.
Anticipating Allen could return for the Pittsburgh game on Dec. 16, the Ravens will use fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo as the backup in the meantime.
But for those dreaming of the Ravens' luring the likes of a Robert Smith out of retirement, Billick quickly squashed any idea of a major running back addition to his depth chart.
"We've got what we've got," Billick said. "No one is going to come riding in here on a white horse. As much as we all want it, this is not last year. It's going to be a different formula. It's going to put more pressure on others and it's going to put more pressure on Elvis Grbac. But that's part of my faith in Elvis."
Team trainer Bill Tessendorf said that Brookins was having a screw inserted into the bone to stabilize the fracture. How the injury heals and responds to treatment will determine if he gets put on injured reserve.
If he can return in a month, the Ravens will keep him on the active roster with hopes of having him for the playoffs. If it looks like he will be sidelined closer to six weeks, the team will put him on injured reserve, ending his season just when it was showing promise.
In his past two starts, he had run for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Brookins, who began training camp as the team's third running back, leads the Ravens with 536 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
"He's going to be a good football player for us for a while," Billick said. "It's unfortunate for him that it's ending right now this way. You have to feel sorry for Jason because he's come so far."
Regarding the defensive line, the Ravens will put McCrary on injured reserve and likely fill his roster spot by tomorrow. A league source confirmed that the team has been talking for a week with free-agent defensive tackle James Jones, who played for the Ravens from 1996 to 1998. Jones' agent, Jack Wirth, did not return phone calls yesterday.
While the Ravens look to add depth to the line, Adams will have arthroscopic surgery sometime over the next few days to repair what the team believes to be cartilage damage. That would sideline him for the next two weeks (which includes the Ravens' bye), but the official diagnosis won't be determined until the procedure is performed.
The Ravens will continue to use a rotation at defensive tackle, with Lional Dalton taking over as a starter in Adams' absence.
"Notwithstanding they find that it's more involved - as is possible - it's our hope that Sam can be back for the Pittsburgh game," Billick said. "Sam's been nurturing that thing for quite a while. It's gotten to the point where it's affected his play to the level that Sam's used to playing at."
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Site: PSINet Stadium
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line: Ravens by 7