The Baltimore Ravens lost a key contributor on both defense and special teams during their Week 2 preseason matchup with the Carolina Panthers in inside linebacker L.J. Fort. The veteran defender tore his ACL in the first half of the contest, and the team placed him on injured reserve earlier in the week, effectively ending his season.
When asked about how Fort’s injury will impact his defense, defensive coordinator Don Martindale spoke on what will be missed about the veteran, as well as what opportunities will be available for fellow inside linebacker Kristian Welch.
“What it means is … L.J. [Fort], to me, is what this league is built on [and] the player that this league is built on; those guys that come in and have the careers that they’ve had just by working their tail off and doing everything right. The thing we’re going to miss out of him, in that room – the linebacker room itself – is just leadership and experience. He’d always talk to the younger guys in helping them along – last year, for example – and he would calm things down when he’d go in the game. So, we’re definitely going to miss that. But you’re seeing these younger guys starting to step up, and it is definitely going to be an opportunity for Kristian Welch, since L.J. went down. But we’re definitely going to miss him.”
It seems that Baltimore trusts the inside linebackers already on their roster, and that includes Welch, who is entering his second year in the NFL. There are a few free agent options available, but with it being so late in the offseason, it would make sense for the Ravens to roll with what they already have and see how it works out for the first couple of weeks.
Fort’s injury also means that linebackers Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, and Chris Board will be relied upon more during the 2021 season.