Baltimore Ravens starting center Bradley Bozeman was a surprising absence in the Ravens’ January 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, with head coach John Harbaugh revealing that Bozeman was simply too sick to start.
Bozeman was not among the Ravens’ inactives posted 90 minutes before kickoff, causing confusion when he did not take the field for pregame warmups with the rest of the team.
Harbaugh told media during his postgame press conference that the Ravens didn’t have a chance to deactivate Bozeman in favor of another player like wideout James Proche, who was a healthy scratch despite a career-best seven catches and 76 yards in Week 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“He was very sick, and we didn’t have a chance to make a roster move when it was determined he wasn’t going to be able to start,” said Harbaugh of Bozeman.
But Bozeman was in full pads and uniform throughout the game, with Harbaugh explaining that Bozeman was “available to us in an emergency, but he was not able to play right at the last moment there.” Bozeman has been known for his consistent availability since being drafted by the Ravens in 2018, starting 47 consecutive games over the last three seasons before being forced to sit vs. the Rams.
Backup center Trystan Colon started in Bozeman’s place alongside rookie left guard Ben Cleveland, who made his third consecutive start in place of injured starter Ben Powers.
Colon has mostly featured as a sixth-offensive lineman in 2021, though he replaced Bozeman after an injury against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6. Colon also started and played two full games at center last season, including a highly-graded performance from Pro Football Focus against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.
Two backup lineman, including a rookie in his third career start, is hardly a winning formula against three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, especially with Ravens superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson still sidelined with an ankle injury.
Colon’s sudden insertion into the starting lineup could have also contributed to a delay of game penalty that Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley criticized after the game.
Donald Shuts Down Two Drives, Ends Game
Donald didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the inexperienced players lined up against him, ending the Ravens’ first two drives almost singlehandedly, per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun.
First, Donald stuffed Ravens running back Devonta Freeman on third down to end a promising drive on Baltimore’s opening possession of the game.
Donald then powered through most of the Ravens’ offensive line to set up a sack by fellow defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson to kick off a three-and-out forced by the Rams defense.
But Donald didn’t stop there, putting the finish touches on the Rams’ victory as the Ravens attempted a last-second miracle.
Freeman Praises Line Despite Struggles
Freeman praised the offensive line despite the key absences, telling media after the game, “I think the line did a hell of a job blocking.”
He also mentioned Baltimore’s “next man up” mentality in an injury-riddle season, emphasizing the importance of making sure everybody does their job, whoever is up next.”
Cleveland’s experience against top-tier competition like Donald could come in handy as he tries to win the starting left guard job in 2022, while Bozeman’s expiring contract could give Colon expanded opportunities next season as well.