Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda back to full strength

By Aaron Wilson The Baltimore Sun
June 24, 2014

A year ago, veteran guard Marshal Yanda was dealing with scar tissue and a grueling rehabilitation after undergoing rotator cuff surgery five days after the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now, the Ravens' three-time Pro Bowl blocker is healthy after starting every game last season. Unlike last year, Yanda had the entire offseason to lift weights and strengthen his shoulder heading into this season.

“Injuries are part of the NFL," Yanda said last week during the final day of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp. "They’re just a part of it. So, you take it one day at a time, and you definitely do as best you can that day.

"Last year at this time I wasn’t even lifting yet, and this year now I’ve been lifting for a long time and feeling good. You can’t change that, so you just take it one day at a time. You approach it as a pro and you get after it.”

Yanda, 28, is entering his eighth NFL season and has two years remaining on his five-year, $32 million contract with $5.5 million base salaries due this year and in 2015.

The gritty Iowa native was named to the NFL Network top 100 players list for the first time, ranked 55th overall in voting by NFL players.

Yanda's toughness is legendary.

Yanda grew up on a farm in Iowa, rising at dawn to perform back-breaking chores. He once won a cash bet as a rookie when he allowed cornerback Samari Rolle to repeatedly jolt him with a Taser.

Yanda started and finished a key AFC North game two seasons ago against the Cincinnati Bengals days after undergoing a painful leg surgery. The Ravens won the division title that day with Yanda in the lineup.

"Marshal is your typical Iowa lineman, a really tough kid with his technique down to a science," former Chicago Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel told The Baltimore Sun last year. "He's got that farm-boy strength, and you could run a clinic by watching his technique. He's considered an overachiever because he's undersized, but he's as good at what he does as anyone in the league."

Yanda is upbeat about the Ravens' opportunity to improve with the hiring of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and the installation of his zone-blocking scheme. The Ravens finished 30th in total offense last season, 29th in rushing offense and allowed 48 sacks.

"I think it could be really good," Yanda said of the running game. "We’re all excited; we all like running the zone scheme and know that Gary [Kubiak] is going to do that, and we’re just excited. We all love running the ball.

"We understand that we’ve got to pass the ball as well, but as offensive linemen, you always love to run the ball, and we’re excited to do that. We understand we’re going to have to pass the ball a bunch as well to win, too, so it’s exciting.”

The Ravens have revamped their offensive line, adding a new starting center after trading for Jeremy Zuttah to replace Gino Gradkowski. Rick Wagner is running with the first-team offense at right tackle following Michael Oher's departure in free agency. Kelechi Osemele returns at left guard after undergoing season-ending back surgery last November. And the Ravens retained left tackle Eugene Monroe with a $37.5 million contract.

Yanda has been the constant presence for the past seven years with 88 starts in 99 career games.

Yanda said he'll judge the progress of the offensive line more when training camp starts in July. The first full-team practice is scheduled for July 24.

“Obviously the pads aren’t on [now], so it’s going to be a whole different element with the pads and just getting the timing down with the pads and stacking days at that point and building a football team," Yanda said. "It starts in the offseason, and it definitely starts come training camp on who we’re going to be and what we’re going to be about.”

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