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‘Gut punch’ for Ravens as Dobbins tears Achilles

BALTIMORE — Running back J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles in the Baltimore Ravens’ season-opening 25-9 win on Sunday, which ended his 2023 season and devastated the entire locker room.

Dobbins went down five minutes after halftime when he took a short pass in the right flat and was wrestled to the ground by Houston Texans safety M.J. Stewart just 2 yards shy of the end zone. He limped to the sideline before heading to the locker room with his arms draped around trainers to assist him.

Afterward, Baltimore wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said Dobbins’ injury made his stomach hurt, and inside linebacker Patrick Queen fought off tears when talking about Dobbins.

“You can’t replace a J.K.,” Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler said. “[He’s a] special guy, both football-wise and personality-wise. He helps keep his team moving and all that. So, an absolute gut punch and heartbreaking.”

The Ravens will now split their running back carries between Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, who scored two touchdowns on Sunday. Baltimore could also promote former Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon to the active roster.

But none has the explosiveness of Dobbins, who delivered the Ravens’ first score of the season with a leaping, 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“That’s very unfortunate,” Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “I feel like J.K. been busting his behind to get back on that field and just show … what he’s capable of and to help us out along the way. I spoke highly of him this offseason, just letting everybody know we really need him. For him to go down with a [season-ending] injury, that’s just very unfortunate, not just him — for all of us.”

This marks the second time in three years that Dobbins will essentially miss an entire season. He was sidelined for all of the 2021 season when he suffered a significant left knee injury in the preseason finale. Last season, Dobbins wasn’t at full strength and missed nine games while trying to recover from that knee injury.

Heading into the opener, Dobbins declared himself 100% healthy for the first time in three years.

“Just kind of crestfallen for him,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We will put our arms around him, and he’ll get into rehab, and he will be back [next season]. But yeah, it’s really hard for him.”

Dobbins, 24, had expressed frustration over his contract this offseason. He was entering the final year of his rookie deal making $1.391 million, which is slightly more than Edwards and Hill, both of whom will earn $1 million.

In March, Dobbins will become an unrestricted free agent having missed 43 of 67 career games (64%).

“It hurts to see that type of stuff happen to somebody so good,” an emotional Queen said. “I just asked everybody, just pray for him, pray for his mental [health]. It’s just tough. It hurts, honestly. It hurts.”

Injuries took a toll on the Ravens in Week 1. In addition to Dobbins, Baltimore had three other starters leave the game and not return: safety Marcus Williams (shoulder), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and center Tyler Linderbaum (calf).

Harbaugh said their statuses will be evaluated after they undergo MRIs. A source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Ravens are looking to determine whether Williams, who has full range of motion and limited pain but a lot of swelling, suffered a torn pec.

“It’s football. It just is,” Harbaugh said of the high number of injuries. “Everyone just does the best they can, and we certainly did and certainly will continue to — I’m sure there’s injuries around the league. I’m sure we will continue to go to work and do the science and try to figure out wherever they can do offseason program-wise and things like that to keep improving in that area big-picture-wise.”

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