OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last season was a bittersweet one for Cedar Rapids native Marshal Yanda, the veteran offensive guard/tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.
The Anamosa High graduate had the rare experience of spending most Sunday afternoons with his family, which includes a wife and three young children.
That extra family time came after he was placed on injured reserve with ankle and leg problems on Sept. 19, 2017. He played in just two games for the Ravens.
“It was a really tough year for me,” said Yanda, 34, standing near his locker Wednesday in suburban Baltimore. “It was one of those injuries you couldn’t fight through. It was extremely frustrating. It was a rough year for me mentally not being able to contribute. It was really tough.
“You have to understand this is the game we play. It is a violent game and injuries are part of this game. You have to understand that. You have to control what you I can control, right?”
Yanda is back this season and has started the first five games for the Ravens (3-2), who play their third road game in a row on Sunday at the Tennessee Titans. Baltimore is coming off a 12-9 loss in overtime to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Ravens have gained 94.4 yards on the ground per game, the 25th-best mark in the league. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco was forced to throw 56 times against the Browns, with the longest pass play going for just 28 yards.
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“All eyes are on the Titans,” said Yanda, drafted out of Iowa in the third round in 2007. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel right now. We just need to keep grinding.”
Now in his 12th season with the Ravens, the six-time Pro Bowler said his body feels good after missing most of last season.
He said he spent five or six days a week rehabbing his injury at the Ravens practice facility.
“We just stayed here because my kids were in school. We had the option of going back to Iowa, but they could rehab me here,” Yanda said. “It was just easier for us to stay here. But that was tough, too. I was coming in here five days a week for rehab.”
Before last season, he was a rock for the Ravens, playing in all 16 regular-season games in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Yanda played in 13 games in 2016.
“Normally I am the guy you could count on, you can rely on,” he said. “It was mentally frustrating every single day to walk in here and not be able to help. You have to suck it up and deal with it. That is part of life, not just in football but in life.
“Ever since I had surgery on my ankle (last year) I attacked every single day.”
Yanda also went on the injured reserve with a knee injury in 2008, and has dealt with shoulder discomfort. But as the Ravens try to bounce back from a down season, Yanda feels good.
“I really couldn’t be happier for how my body is holding up after the five games,” he said. “I don’t feel my ankle at all. My shoulder has felt really good. I couldn’t be happier with how it has went.”
So how long does Yanda plan to play?
“Right now it is one year at a time and reassess after the season,” he said. “The body feels really good right now. I understand we have a lot of football left. I am just going to take it one year at a time. I still love to play, but the question is my body and how it holds up and how I am feeling after the year.”
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Last season Yanda did not travel with the team after he went on injured reserve, watching home and road games on TV with his family, which includes children who are 3, 5 and 7 years old.
This Sunday’s game at Tennessee will be unique in that Yanda and the Ravens will go up against Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who held the same position with Baltimore from 2012 to 2017.
“I love Dean and his time here,” Yanda said. “We are excited to play against him. We spent a lot of time with Dean, won a Super Bowl (in 2012). I have a lot of respect for Dean and looking forward to going against him.”
“It’s more unusual than the average game. You don’t have that every week,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of facing Pees. “Does it give the Titans any strategic advantage? I don’t know. We’ll find out. It’s not worth one second of (analyzing) who has the advantage. It would be a waste of time.”
Perhaps a bigger focus is the Baltimore offense, which did not score a touchdown at Cleveland.
Veteran wideout Michael Crabtree has a team-high 24 catches but had a few drops against the Browns. John Brown is fourth on the team with 19 receptions.
“You could see that he was special from an early point,” Flacco said of Brown. “He’s really smooth, he has really good ball skills, and he does a lot of things really well that help him out.”
Yanda and the offensive line will try to pave the way for a more balanced offense on Sunday against the Titans.
“We are still a good football team. We need to keep our heads down and keep attacking and keep getting better and see it through,” Yanda said.