In the first game of his first game in more than a year, Nick Boyle steered a Chicago Bears defender off the line of scrimmage and watched the Ravens run past Devonta Freeman zip. In the second game of his first game in more than a year, Boyle pinned another Bears player and saw Freeman climb another level again.
Boyle’s rehabilitation from season-end knee surgery was a long, painful process. A couple big blocks on Sunday was his reward.
“When I blocked my guy to go back to running, it made me feel a little better,” Boyle said with a grin on Wednesday, making his first remarks to Baltimore reporters as he walked down a rainy road. Was out of the field at a loss. For the New England Patriots on November 15, 2020. “Coming back from injury, man, you have doubts. And those are the doubts you have to clear. And when you go out to play, it’s like, you do everything in your power to fix those plays and do them to the best of your ability. But sometimes, you know, in reality, that’s not always the case. So I am thankful that the first two plays went on like this.
Boyle’s 2021 start was, as he said, “fantastic”. He woke up in Chicago on Sunday knowing he would be playing for the first time in a long time. He left Soldier Field with 32 offensive snaps in a 16-13 win and hard-won praise from the Ravens, cheering for a beloved teammate and one of the NFL’s best blocked tight ends.
A close friend Mark Andrews said: “He’s a fantastic player, and I’m excited to have him back.”
Another close friend Patrick Ricard tweeted: “Can we show some love [Nick Boyle] To his enduring persistence to come back within a year to play again! So proud of him because I know how hard he worked to get back!!!! My brother likes to have it there. ,
It was better not to come at all than to be back late. After sitting out of training camp, Boyle returned to practice in early September, only to be placed on injured reserve less than two weeks later. Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens expected him to be back in about a month. He did not return to practice till 20 October.
There was a lot to overcome. Boyle said he had two operations on his left knee. The initial procedure, which he called “the worst surgery of my life,” repaired meniscus, PCL, MCL, and fracture damage. A clean-up process, which he underwent over the summer, delayed his return to the field.
Boyle’s hamstring was also torn after losing to New England. “The way the man hit me, it kind of came off, and the whole inside of my knee was blown off,” he said.
The magnitude of Boyle’s injuries, and his relative inexperience with the rehabilitation required, made him wonder whether he would be the player he once was, which in January general manager Eric DeCosta called “the backbone for this team”.
“When you get injured like this, you fight with yourself daily when you’re not feeling well yet,” Boyle said. “And from a mental aspect, after recovering from injuries, you always think to yourself, ‘Am I going to be the player I was before?’ It plays in your mind every day, and you really have to erase it and just go to work and work every single day. Erase it and go and attack the next day like that. I’m sure I’ll go there and I’ll be the way I was and I’ll be even better. But that stuff just takes time.”
Boyle is willing to be patient. He lost to the Miami Dolphins in Ravens Week 10 because he felt that the short week of walk-throughs was not enough to prepare him for the pace of the game. On Monday he was in “slight pain”, he said, but it was not due to anything wrong with his knees. He just needed to come back strong, regaining the physicality that the Ravens saw worthy of a contract extension through 2023. With more time, there will be more blocks. And with more blocks, there will be more smiles.
“I don’t think I’m there yet, but I feel like I’m getting better every day,” he said. “It’s just a huge process, and I think I have a lot of respect for the people who go through the injuries, and the serious injuries you do now every day, just to get to where you are. But when You start getting better then you see the light at the end of the tunnel. You start getting out there, and things feel more natural. Not there at all, but it’s like I said: every day is a step .