Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Hayden Hurst Still Sidelined with 'Soft Tissue Injury'

July 24, 2018 - 10:45 am

By Joe Schiller

Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst is expected to be an integral part of the Ravens’ passing offense this season but the first-round pick has been sidelined during the early portions of training camp.

Dealing with a “soft-tissue injury,” as described by head coach John Harbaugh, Hurst missed his third training camp practice on Monday. And will the injury is only considered minor, it’s a setback for a position that’s been suffered plenty of inconsistencies.

“It’s a big effect,” said Harbaugh. “You have to be out here practicing. You can’t be in the training room and expect to be your best. It’s not his fault; it’s nobody’s fault. He’s in there doing everything he can to get back, but it’s part of the deal. One thing I’ve noticed: guys coming out of college aren’t as callused up as they used to be. We used to practice twice a day in full pads. Those players … And those players know … I’m talking to you out there, who know, who’ve played in the National Football League or played in college 10, 15 years ago, [that] it’s not even close to the same thing.”

Since Dennis Pitta was forced to retire after the 2016 season with an excruciating hip injury, the tight end position has been a revolving door. Veteran Ben Watson battled back from an Achilles tear and finished as the second-leading receiver last season (522 yards). But the 37-year-old returned to New Orleans in free agency, leaving an unproven group at the helm.

The Ravens spent two of their first four picks in the NFL Draft on tight ends, selecting Hurst in the first round and Mark Andrews in the third round. It’s the first time the team drafted two tight ends in the same class since Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle – both who’ve struggled to make their mark and now enter the last year of their rookie deals. Vince Mayle made the position change from wide receiver to tight end but is primarily a special teams player while Darren Waller served a year-long suspension and has yet to be reinstated by the NFL.

It’s still early in the training camp process, but as a rookie, Hurst is missing valuable practice time and most importantly, a chance to develop a chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco. When Flacco missed almost the entire offseason in 2017 with a back injury, it showed.

Harbaugh noted that Williams and Boyle have both seen increased reps in camp with Hurst out but it’s a less-than-ideal situation with the top pick on the field.

The hope will be that there is no underlying issue with Hurst’s injury and that he’ll be able to return back to the practice field as soon as possible. The last thing the Ravens can afford is losing their top rookie draft pick for a pivotal 2018 season.