Matt Skura’s 293-day journey started on a cart in Los Angeles. It ended with live snaps in the Ravens’ season-opener last Sunday.
On Nov. 25 in Los Angeles last season, a lineman fell into Skura’s left knee, tearing the ACL, MCL, PCL and dislocating his kneecap. The outlook for an injury of that significance isn’t short-term.
Throughout the offseason, though, Skura routinely surpassed benchmarks for his injury, faster than most everyone thought possible. Sunday against the Browns, he made his return.
“That was my goal, was at least to be ready for training camp — or at least the first or second week of training camp — getting into practices,” Skura said Thursday. “I knew probably in the summertime – in like June, July – that I probably would be ready to go for the first game. So, I kind of had already put myself there mentally, as far as seeing myself starting Week One, preparing as if I was the starter.”
Against the Browns, Skura played 49 of 59 snaps in his return to the field. It was a return his coaching staff couldn’t even have envisioned.
“I’d say no, I didn’t think there was any chance he would be able to go Week One, in all honesty,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “I thought he’d be a PUP and come back after six weeks at the earliest type of a situation. That would’ve been excellent. For him to be back playing in the opener is a tribute to him and to our trainers and the doctors that did the surgery, just the whole thing.”
Since Skura’s knee injury, a lot has changed in the NFL landscape.
He didn’t have any preseason games, or a normal training camp period, to prep himself or his knee for a return to the field. He no longer has Marshal Yanda, one of the game’s best right guards, at his side. There also weren’t fans in the stands to cheer for both Skura and the Ravens’ in their return to the field.
“I was joking with my wife saying that it kind of helped that there were no fans there, because I was already pretty anxious for the game — getting back to the field for the first time,” Skura said. “So, it was kind of nice. As far as that, the environment I think would’ve gotten my nerves up a little bit more. I was able to actually stay pretty calm, stay pretty even-keeled.”
The trick for Skura now is to get his knee back to 100 percent health so he can return to form from a season ago. He thinks he's close to, or even at, that benchmark right now.
He also joked that, after the game, everything on his body was sore except the knee. That’s to be expected when he hasn’t played a football game in 293 days.
But Skura simply being on the field at all is a testament to his offseason workouts and recovery. Because once he was carted off the field in Los Angeles last November, almost no one thought a return so soon was remotely possible.
“It’s something that I’m definitely progressing through throughout the whole season,” Skura said. “I think I’m really close to being 100 percent, or right at 100 percent. I’m still making sure that I’m in the weight room — hitting that hard when I’m doing my lower body stuff. It’s something that I think I’m just going to have to work through, through the entire season, but right now, my knee feels great.”