4 Downs: What does Pitta's return mean for Ravens?
The Ravens placed wide receiver Brandon Stokley on injured reserve on Tuesday after he suffered another concussion, ending the wide receiver's season. It also could mark the end of the line for Stokley, whose career has been defined by overachievement and longevity.
Originally a fourth-round draft pick by the Ravens out of Southwestern Louisiana in 1999, Stokley was never the biggest or the fastest receiver. And these days, with his 6-0, 194-pound frame and hair that is graying at the temples, Stokley, 37, would hardly stand out on a Sunday rec league flag football field. Until he started running routes and catching balls.
For Stokley parlayed his ability to do both those things into a 15-year NFL career. As of last week, he and Champ Bailey were the only members of the 1999 draft class still active.
Stokley is the only current Ravens player with a ring from the Ravens first Super Bowl title. In fact, he caught the first touchdown of that game, a 38-yarder from Trent Dilfer.
He spent four seasons with the Ravens before moving on to the Colts. He played with Peyton Manning and the Colts for four seasons before moving to Denver. Then there was one season with Seattle (2010), and after an injury-marred 2011 season that featured just two games with the Giants, his career appeared to be over at age 35.
But Stokley reunited with Manning in Denver last season and caught 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns. He added another touchdown catch in the 'Mile High Miracle' double-overtime playoff game.
Stokley's career again seemed to be over after last season, when the Broncos didn't bring him back, but then the Ravens came calling this past August. Needing a reliable, proven chain-mover after the trade of Anquan Boldin and an injury to tight end Dennis Pitta -- and after unimpressive results from wide receivers early in the preseason -- the Ravens signed Stokley to a one-year contract on Aug. 11.
Stokley battled injuries this season as well, sidelined at times by hamstring and knee injuries. He played in six games, with 13 catches for 115 yards.
For his career, Stokley has played in 152 regular-season games, with 397 catches for 5,339 yards and 39 touchdowns. But his career stats, according to him, include more than a dozen concussions dating back to his college days, and it's hard to believe he will be back for another NFL season at age 38 at a position where the players seemingly get bigger and faster every year.
Then again, after he keeps resurfacing every year, can you really count him out?