Ravens center Matt Skura is head of schedule in his recovery
The competition for starting spots on the interior of the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line is expected to be the fiercest when training camp begins in about a month. With two stalwart staples at both of the tackle spots already cemented in All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley and 2019 Pro Bowl first alternate Orlando Brown Jr. on the right side, all three of the spots between them are up for grabs, including at center where they could be getting a familiar face back from injury sooner than originally anticipated.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the last year’s starter, Matt Skura, is “ahead of schedule” in his recovery from the knee injury that ended his 2019 season and that the strides that he has made in the rehab process have been “remarkable”. Skura is coming back from having surgery after dislocating his knee as well as tearing his ACL, PCL, and MCL.
“Matt Skura was the biggest injury we had last year and he looks to be like he’s ahead of schedule,” said Harbaugh. “Really impressed with how hard he’s worked at it.”
Last week a report surfaced that Skura had passed his conditioning test with flying colors and that it was a great sign of how far he has come in the rehabilitation process.
“He really looks good out there. I think it was reported that the time, the workout that we did, the timing of the conditioning test, he just blew the thing away. That’s remarkable. So we go in healthy.”
The annual conditioning test that all NFL players are subjected to in order to ascertain if they’re in or close to good football shape can be a grueling task for even some athletic skill position players pass the first time around under the circumstances of a normal offseason. Given the fact that Skura, an offensive lineman, aced it coming off a major knee injury that he suffered in late November during a Week 11 beatdown of the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football, is nothing short of incredible and a testament to his drive and work ethic to ensure that he gets his starting spot back.
He started the first 12 games and has made starts at both guard and at center for the Ravens during his first three years in the league since making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Duke in 2017. The former Blue Devil started 12 games at guard as a rookie in, won the starting center job and started all 16 games in his sophomore season following the departure of Ryan Jensen in free agency, and was having the best season of his career keeping franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson upright during his MVP season and opening holes for the Ravens’ record-setting rushing attack before he landed on injured reserve.
Before he suffered his season-ending injury, Skura was leading all centers in Pro Bowl voting as the anchor in the middle of arguably the best offensive line in the league. After he went down Harbaugh said that he believed that Skura had established himself as “one of the better centers, at least in the National Football League, without trying even to overstate it.”
Following the the 2018 season he earned the highest performance-based bonus among all players in the league. He earned $533,558 in performance pay, $395,660 from the performance-based pool, and an additional $137,898 from the veterans’ pool which nearly doubled his $550,000 base salary that year, according to Spotrac.
Starting positions and playing time in Baltimore are earned and never given just because of veteran or draft status. They value competition, versatility, and stacking good practices over all else and Skura has proven that he can excel at all three. That fact that he could be ready to roll at the start of training camp when many believed that he would be out of commission for at least the start or even half the season is tremendous news for a unit that lost not only their leader but also the services of a future first-ballot Hall of Famer when eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda retired earlier this offseason.
Even if Skura gets beat out for the starting spot at center by someone like Bradley Bozeman who started all 16 games at left guard last season but played center in college and competed for that spot last year, his positional versatility and experience starting at other spots in the interior of the offensive line make him a candidate to win either of the guard spots as well. Harbaugh mentioned to reporters in the phone interview that Bozeman will get another look at center this year as well.
The Ravens believe in playing the best starting five combinations that give them the greatest chance to succeed and execute their game plan. If that means moving Skura over to Yanda’s vacated spot or swapping him and Bozeman, then they will do so. He was replaced in the starting lineup by 2019 undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari after he went down. The rookie performed admirably and will be competing with him to be the incumbent at center as well as both guard spots as one of the starting five.