Earlier this offseason the Baltimore Ravens entered a fight against their superstar quarterback, Lamar Jackson, that led the franchise player to request a trade and the organization to finally sign him to the then-richest deal in NFL history.
Having solved that problem before the NFL Draft and now entering the pre-season part of the summer, the Ravens might be getting dangerously close to a similar situation, this time related to four-year veteran running back J.K. Dobbins.
Asked about Dobbins' absence from Day 1 of training camp, kicking off Wed., July 26 in Owings Mills, head coach John Harbaugh said "That's a J.K. question."
That's in the comprehensive report written by Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, who discussed the situation of the rusher and his relationship with the franchise including the latest developments of this saga.
According to Zrebiec and other reporters attending training camp yesterday, Dobbins and Rashod Bateman (who is recovering from a foot injury) were present on the field watching their teammates "with about 40 minutes left in the workout."
"There's always a lot of things that go into football, but there's some complexity to it," Harbaugh added to his answer about Dobbins' missing practice. "We're working through all that, and we're looking forward to when he's out there."
Dobbins watched the practice along with president Sashi Brown and owner Steve Bisciotti, as well as GM Eric DeCosta, reports Zrebiec. There were "no outward signs of any hard feelings."
As Zrebiec explains, Dobbins reported to mandatory minicamp in early June but he did not participate in any on-field activities. Back then, HC Harbaugh said that he "expected to see the running back there," something that ultimately didn't happen.
Dobbins spoke to WJZ-TV after minicamp but he didn't clarify the reasons behind his refusal for practicing and participating in the minicamp activities. He didn't make clear if it was due to a physical issue or anything else--aka a rumored hold-in.
Right now, Dobbins is listed by the Ravens in their PUP list, although nobody seems to know the particular reasons for that or what's keeping him off the training field.
In a recent report written by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, it was revealed that some high-profile running backs were about to organize a Zoom call to address the depressed running back market. Said call took place a few days ago, and Dobbins was reportedly part of it.
More interestingly, it was leaked that the Zoom meeting served the purpose of discussing possible strategies to be pursued by rushers going forward in order to gain leverage in negotiations with their teams. One of them: faking and exaggerating injuries "when locked in a contract standoff with their teams."
That's not entirely Dobbins' case (he's still under contract for one more season), but you get what I'm saying.
The question to ask is simple at this point: Is J.K. Dobbins exaggerating his injury here to try and snatch the deal he wants from the Ravens one year in advance of his contract running out? You be the judge, but there's surely something smelly going on here.
According to Zrebiec, the Ravens' brass "love his toughness and energy," and they think he's been "impressive" when healthy. That said, they have never used the running back as a bonafide RB1 in terms of his volume of carries, not even under OC Greg Roman and his run-heavy playbook.
Dobbins' best strategy going forward and if he truly wants a big-money deal, whether that's offered by Baltimore or another franchise, is simply to hit the ground running (pun intended) as quickly as possible, prove that he can stay healthy for a full season, and to put up numbers like a madman.
Only then, and not by exaggerating injuries or missing practices, will Dobbins earn the daugh he's after.