The biggest news in the NFL yesterday concerned a player being removed from the Physically Unable to Perform List, with the Washington Football Team officially activating quarterback Alex Smith. The longtime veteran shattered his leg during the 2018 season, and has spent a very long time rehabbing, a process that included 17 surgeries and a life-threatening infection.
The fact that he is resuming football activities is really quite remarkable, even inspirational. It’s a great story, generally, and frankly we can’t leave out the possibility at this point that he actually ends up playing this season—maybe even against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One player the Steelers will definitely be facing is Matt Skura, the Baltimore Ravens’ starting center, who was also removed from the PUP List following a very serious injury. In November, the veteran lineman tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL, and dislocated his kneecap, and injury perhaps not dissimilar to that suffered by Sean Spence during his rookie season in 2012, and which took him over a year to get back from.
A former undrafted free agent, Skura has been the team’s primary starter at center since replacing Ryan Jensen, who left in free agency for what was at the time a record-setting contract for his position. He is playing under a restricted free agent tender this year, so he has the potential to cash in during free agency in March as well if he performs at a high level.
While former undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari played reasonably well in filling in for Skura at the end of last season, the retirement of Marshal Yanda at guard heightens the desire to have a veteran filling in at that important position.
“I thought Matt got bigger and stronger, and played bigger and stronger last year”, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said last week. “I really think his work in the weight room with our strength and conditioning staff in the offseason leading into last year allowed him to be a little bit more of a physical presence in there”.
“really think his understanding of the game made his communication process almost utterly seamless at times”, he added. “That’s something he takes a lot of pride in, but a center is so important as far as getting everybody on the same page in today’s NFL”.
While the Ravens’ bookend tackle positions are stable with Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown, and Bradley Bozeman stepped in at left guard, the right guard position remains somewhat up for grabs, though the favorite is D.J. Fluker, a longtime veteran heading into his eighth season.