The Ravens’ win Thursday was bittersweet.
After Baltimore’s 34-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, coach John Harbaugh announced that tight end Mark Andrews’ ankle injury is “very serious” and will likely end his season.
“Our prayers will be with Mark,” Harbaugh said. “Nobody cares more about the team and being there for the guys than Mark Andrews, so it’s going to be hard for him but we’re going to be there for him all the way.”
Harbaugh said the injury is a “form of a high ankle” injury but “more than just a sprain.”
On the opening drive, Andrews caught a short pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson in the red zone and was tackled by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, who rolled onto Andrews’ legs as he brought him down. The Ravens’ medical staff attended to Andrews as he lay on his back. Jackson threw his helmet to the ground in frustration as he saw Andrews in pain.
After a few minutes, the tight end stood up with help and walked gingerly to the sideline, later leaving the field to go into the locker room.
“I pretty much [saw] it,” Jackson said. “I was hoping he was going to get up. … But when he went down, he was just laying there with that confused look on his face. I was like, ‘That’s my boy.’ I don’t want to see that happen to anybody, not just him. That’s my boy.”
The Ravens finished the opening drive with a touchdown — a 3-yard run from Gus Edwards — to take an early lead. Later in the first half, Jackson went to the medical tent for what appeared to be a lower-body injury, but the signal caller returned for the Ravens’ next offensive drive without missing a snap. Jackson finished the game 16-for-26 passing for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
The loss of Andrews, a three-time Pro Bowl tight end, is significant. His 59 targets, 43 receptions and 521 yards entering Thursday all ranked second on Baltimore behind wideout Zay Flowers, while his six touchdown catches were more than the rest of the Ravens combined (five).
“It’s really crushing,” running back Gus Edwards said. “That’s one of our leaders, one of our best players. That’s a guy that we would love to have out there, but going to say a prayer for him. And I know with his work ethic that he’ll be back and he’s not going to miss a beat.”
Harbaugh said Andrews’ production won’t be the only thing the Ravens miss, but also his leadership in the locker room.
“He’s a fiery, emotional guy,” Harbaugh said. “He’s an energy-bringer every single day, so we’re going to have to all make up for that, too.”
Added defensive tackle Justin Madubuike: “[It’s] devastating. I don’t even know the right words to describe it. Mark is a great teammate that everybody loves, the players, the coaching staff and the fans. For him to go down, that’s tough. … Mark is one of the toughest guys around, so we’ll be praying for him [and] showing him some love because he definitely needs it right now. He loves this team, and he loves football. It’s just so unfortunate, but we’re going to fight for him.”
The type of tackle that brought Andrews down could soon be banned by the NFL.
League executive Jeff Miller said at the NFL’s league meetings in October that the hip-drop tackle increases risk of injury by 2,500% of a normal tackle. The hip-drop — the form used by Wilson on Andrews’ injury — is one in which the defender, normally pursuing from behind and at an angle, dives and falls on his hip to bring down the ball carrier. By doing so, the ball carrier is at risk of having his ankle twisted or his knee inverted.
“It is an unforgiving behavior and one that we need to try to define and get out of the game,” Miller said. “To quantify it for you, we see an injury more or less every week in the regular season on the hip-drop.”
Harbaugh identified the tackle on Andrews as the one the NFL is considering banning.
“It was definitely a hip-drop tackle, and it is being discussed,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a tough tackle. Was it even necessary in that situation? … There are always plays you send into the league to have them look at and have them interpret for you.”
Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen said he was disappointed about Andrews’ injury, but he doesn’t blame the type of tackle for it.
“I mean, at the end of the day, we play football. I hate that Mark’s hurt, but at the end of the day, we play football,” he said. “We play a tackling sport, I don’t think a hip-drop tackle is that bad of a thing. I mean, how else do you want us to tackle?”
Andrews wasn’t the only player to leave with an injury. Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow injured his right wrist in the second quarter on a short touchdown pass to running back Joe Mixon and went to the locker room. Burrow, who was shown on the broadcast struggling to grip the ball while throwing on the sideline, was ruled out of the game early in the second half.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters after the game that Burrow is dealing with a sprained wrist.
Jake Browning, a former college star at Washington who entered Thursday with one career pass in the NFL, replaced Burrow, who helped lead Cincinnati to the Super Bowl in 2021 and the AFC championship game last season. Browning finished 8-for-14 for 68 yards and a touchdown, a 2-yard pass to Ja’Marr Chase with 1:08 to go.
Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who leads the team with four interceptions, was also ruled out in the third quarter with a left quadriceps injury. Ravens wideout Odell Beckham Jr. left the game with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter after a hard tackle from behind. He later returned to the sideline in street clothes to watch the final minutes of the win.
Harbaugh said Beckham’s injury “doesn’t look to be too serious.” Beckham echoed his coach’s sentiments about his shoulder, adding ‘we’ll figure it out.’ The Ravens play one game in the next 23 days with the long week and Week 13 bye.
Without Andrews, Baltimore will need its wide receiving corps to step up — as it did Thursday with perhaps the group’s best performance of the season. Backup tight ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar are next in line behind Andrews.
“I believe it’s going to be a huge challenge, but we have Charlie and Likely,” Jackson said. Those guys are going to step up, and they’ve been playing their tail off as well, but we’re going to build chemistry.”
Likely, who didn’t catch either of his two targets Thursday in Andrews’ stead, said he tries to mirror how Andrews plays the game. Now it’s his turn to put it into action.
“It hurts. Mark is like a big brother in my eyes, so everything I do, I try to talk to Mark about it,” Likely said. “Whether it’s running plays, blocking [or] passing plays, I try to do the same thing to my guy on my side.
“Seeing him go down, seeing the news on him ruined my night.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.