The Baltimore Ravens were expecting a lot from rookie third-round draft choice Bronson Kaufusi this year, the 6’6” defensive end out of Brigham Young. The Steelers had interest in him back during the draft, but they chose instead to address the defensive line with an interior player.
Back in June during OTAs, Kaufusi wrenched his back, and missed most of spring drills, though he was able to return in time for the start of training camp. While there, he was impressing his coaches and aggravating offensive linemen, but that will be the extent of his rookie season, it appears, after he broke his ankle yesterday.
According to the team’s website, a teammate fell on his leg during practice as he was driving a blocker into the backfield, the weight of the body ‘collapsing’ his ankle. The injury will require surgery, and he will miss the entirety of the 2016 season.
The Ravens are undergoing a bit of a change along the defensive line, and Kaufusi was expected to compete for some meangngful playing time, though he was not likely to compete for a starting spott. Timmy Jernigan will occupy one of those two spots, while the other will likely be manned by either Lawrence Guy or Brent Urban, who himself is finally healthy.
Kaufusi can take a lesson from Urban, who himself spent his rookie season on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury during training camp. The following summer, while recovering from the knee injury, he suffered an arm injury that delayed his debut during the 2015 season, but he got time toward the end of the year and registered six tackles and a sack, and blocked a field goal attempt that was returned for a touchdown.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was not ignorant of the comparisons between two of his young defensive linemen, and as he announced to the media that Kaufusi had been injured and would be sidelined for the year, he pointed to Urban and talked about how he dealt with those injury setbacks for two years before finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
The rookie’s injury does leave the Ravens a bit thin along the defensive line, as they only had five defensive ends on the roster, even though Jernigan is officially listed as a defensive tackle. It will be interesting to see how the team deals with that lack of depth.
The AFC North has seen its share of injuries to young players so far during training camp. The Bengals have already lost their rookie first-rounder for at least most of the year, if not the entirety of it. The Steelers themselves have now also lost their second-year cornerback drafted in the second round.