Ayanbadejo still working on comeback

Special teams ace may have to forgo defensive role

August 18, 2010|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Ten months after Brendon Ayanbadejo's left quadriceps tore away from his kneecap in New England, the Ravens' special teams ace remains in limbo, reduced to private workouts amid the grind of training camp practices.

The Ravens break camp Friday in Westminster, counting down to their Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets. Ayanbadejo, 34, is operating on an entirely different timeline.

"My goal is just to be healthy again," he said. "Whenever that happens, it's going to happen. Then, on top of that, I'll worry about football after that. I just want to be healthy."

Ayanbadejo suffered the tear Oct. 4 in a 27-21 loss to the Patriots. It was his first start on defense in three years and his 100th consecutive game in the NFL. In little more than a month, he had gone from special teams captain to playing inside linebacker alongside Ray Lewis.

In hindsight, Ayanbadejo thinks the workload might have overtaxed his body. He was hurt attempting to make a tackle.

"I think I overworked myself last year and I think I contributed to my injury, playing all the special teams and playing half the game on defense -- a little more than half the game," he said. "So that probably wasn't the smartest thing, but I had a lot to prove last year, so I was hungry and I was willing to do that for the team."

Ayanbadejo won't estimate when he can return. He has yet to practice with the team. But when he returns, he expects to have a reduced role.

"I know what's on my agenda," he said. "As far as what's on the coaches' agenda, that's something we need to talk about. Â As far as the future goes, I'll probably have to sit down with the coaches and make a decision as far as, 'Do you want me to do A?' or 'Do you want me to do B?' and what's best for the team."

Ayanbadejo was fully caught up in helping the team on defense a year ago. He was physical against the run and fast enough to play in coverage.

"No one else was doing it," he said. "For a player that was in his 10th year of professional football to be doing that much  I was in the best shape of my life and they had standards for me that they didn't have on other people. Â

"But it's the type of thing, you're playing on a good team, you want to do as much as you can do to help the team and be a selfless player. I might have to be a little more selfish this year."

Ayanbadejo, 6 feet 1 and 225 sculpted pounds, has one of the Ravens' most finely tuned physiques and is known as a workout warrior.

"I've been building my physique my entire life, and I pretty much lost my entire quad," he said. "So now I have to build it back, and it takes time to build that muscle back."

Ayanbadejo not only tore the quadriceps, but he also suffered nerve damage in the leg. Recently, he received a plasma injection that should help in the rehabilitation.

"I'm able to come out here [to the practice field at McDaniel College], I'm able to train," he said. "Next week I should be further along because I had my plasma injection."

Ayanbadejo said the projection on recovery from the injury was 10 months. He won't play in Saturday's preseason game at Washington. If he can't play in either of the final two games, he likely would be placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list at the start of the regular season.

"I don't feel any pressure at all" to come back, he said. "The most pressure I've put on myself, more than anybody else puts on me. Everybody from Coach [John] Harbaugh to the training staff, they want me to be back when I'm ready and not to rush it. And when I do come back, they want me to stay back. They don't want the type of thing where I come for a few days and I work hard and then all of a sudden I'm done for two weeks. They don't want that. When I come back, they want me to be back and [to] be durable."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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