Ravens head coach John Harbaugh makes his home debut tonight against the Vikings, but could be without 25 percent of his roster, including half of his projected starters, due in large part to injuries sustained during his first training camp.
During training camp, Vikings head coach Brad Childress has stressed the importance of not getting anyone injured. Some teams have seen their seasons ripped apart by such injuries in recent years. The Jets had a promising season tank when Chad Pennington
went down in the preseason and the same was true for the Falcons when Michael Vick ripped his ankle.
While the same isn't completely true for the Ravens heading into tonight's game with the Vikings, their injury list is about as severe as it can get. Safety Ed Reed
and RB Willis McGahee
have already been ruled out and several others are big question marks heading into tonight's game. The Ravens have no fewer than five cornerbacks banged up in some way or another and wide receivers Derrick Mason
(knee) and Demetrius Williams
. In all, as many as 10 starters might not play at all – Reed, McGahee, Mason, OTs Jared Gaither
(ankle) and Adam Terry
(ankle), TE Todd Heap (calf), DTs Haloti Ngata
(knee) and Kelly Gregg
(knee) and CBs Chris McAlister (knee) and Samari Rolle (knee).
An 11th starter, DE/OLB Terrell Suggs
, has missed the first 23 days of training camp with the Ravens due to a holdout after being hit with the franchise tag by the club. Suggs has agreed to sign his $8.5 million franchise tag and return to the team now that training camp has ended.
In addition to those starters, several key backups are expected to miss action as well, including TE Daniel Wilcox
(toe), CB Fabian Washington
(neck), CB Derrick Martin
(head), CB Davis Pittman (leg), LBs Dan Cody (foot), Tavares Gooden
(hip) and Robert McCune
(knee), WR Demetrius Williams (Achilles) and DT Kelly Talavou (shoulder). In all, as many as 20 players will be sitting out this game, reducing the size of the Ravens roster down to 60 players, as opposed to the 75 healthy players the Vikings are expected to have.
How can a team be expected to compete on a high level when so many players are down? Moreover, how can Vegas oddsmakers project the Ravens as a two-and-a-half point favorite? While the Vikings are going through the motions of the preseason simply hoping to keep everyone healthy, the Ravens appear to be playing a game of survival. With half of your starters banged up after just one preseason game, this could be the start of something very bad in Ravens Country this year.
Olympic superstar Michael Phelps will go for his record-setting eighth gold medal tonight. Phelps, who grew up in the Baltimore, is even a bigger hero there. On the Ravens website, they are encouraging fans to remain in the stadium after the game to watch Phelps go for Olympic immortality on the Jumbotron. His race is scheduled for shortly after the anticipated end of the Vikings-Ravens game.
The Vikings are going to have several players not suiting up for tonight's game, including safety Madieu Williams (neck), OTs Marcus Johnson (knee) and Drew Radovich (shoulder), DT Kenderick Allen (hand) and DE Brian Robison (leg).
Tonight will be the first home game for coach John Harbaugh, who coached alongside Childress when both were assistants with the Eagles.
Tonight will mark the return of Chester Taylor to face his former Ravens teammates. Taylor spent his first four seasons playing for the Ravens.
The Ravens have a QB battle waging on that doesn't include first-round rookie Joe Flacco. Instead, it's Kyle Boller, a former first-rounder himself, and Troy Smith, who won a Heisman Trophy while leading Ohio State as its QB, waging the battle. The two are entangled in and old-fashioned QB battle that hasn't been resolved. Boller got to start the preseason opener and didn't fare that well. Smith with get the nod tonight.
The Vikings game will likely be severely overshadowed by the Jets-Redskins game tonight, which will mark the New York debut of Brett Favre in his first games since 1992 wearing a jersey other than that of the Green Bay Packers.
When the Vikings face the Saints Oct. 6, it will likely be a game without Saints DT Hollis Thomas. The star DT had surgery on a torn right triceps muscle that was injured during a shared practice with the Texans and he is expected to be out a minimum of two months.
Former Viking Troy Williamson is expected to make his debut for the Jaguars tonight. He missed the first preseason game with hip and groin injuries.