Ravens rookie offensive lineman Ryan Jensen has been sidelined since breaking his foot in late July, and many observers expected the Ravens to place Jensen on injured reserve when they set their 53-man roster on Aug. 31.
Jensen, though, remained on the active roster, and coach John Harbaugh on Monday indicated why: The rookie sixth-round pick from Colorado State-Pueblo could be close to returning to action.
"We feel like he’s going to be a player for us sooner rather than later, and that’s why we held on to him on the 53 (man roster)," Harbaugh said in his Monday news conference as the Ravens began preparing for Sunday's home opener against Cleveland. "We’ve got high hopes for him for this year, and he’s not too far out."
Jensen (6-4, 318) is viewed as a center and guard candidate and would provide depth along the offensive line, something that has been in relatively short supply. Not counting Jensen, the Ravens have eight offensive linemen on the roster, and guard/tackle Jah Reid was a game-day inactive at Denver. So when Michael Oher went down with an injury, rookie Rick Wagner went the rest of the way at right tackle.
The Ravens frequently tout the value in versatility, and Harbaugh said Jensen is a "two-way guy. He can play both guard spots and center." Jensen actually played tackle in college, but assistant coach Juan Castillo worked out Jensen at Colorado and projected him as a center. But certainly the ability to play elsewhere on the line has value.
If healthy, Jensen would seemingly be one of the top guard candidates should either Kelechi Osemele or Marshal Yanda go down with an injury.
Jensen, though, has yet to suit up for any NFL game action. He missed all four preseason games after sustaining a broken foot in late July. So once the foot is ready, Jensen not only needs to get up to game speed, but get up to NFL game speed for the first time.
"He’s in very good shape," Harbaugh said. "He’s going to have to get in football shape, but he’s getting closer to being back, so we’re excited about him.”