David Ojabo knows he could’ve Googled it. Information on Achilles tendon tears is easily accessible and widely available: How long do recoveries normally take? What would he be like when he came back? All of it, just keystrokes away.
The Ravens rookie outside linebacker didn’t care to look. Or if he did, he didn’t care to mention what he’d found, because on Saturday, he was playing football again, and that’s all that mattered.
“It’s a dream come true, man,” Ojabo, a second-round draft pick, said after the Ravens’ 13-3 road loss to the Cleveland Browns. “I just know all the hard work in there was worth it.”
Ojabo hadn’t played much in his NFL debut, just five snaps, only one on defense. But the significance of his comeback had left him smiling and tongue-tied and so very grateful. During pregame warmups, as he prepared for his first game since Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss almost a year ago, he said he cried a little.
Nine months ago, Ojabo was a first-round prospect coming off a breakout season for the Wolverines: 11 sacks, a program-record five forced fumbles, All-American honors. He was a blur of an edge rusher for then-Michigan (and now Ravens) defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. But at the school’s pro day in March, Ojabo planted his leg innocuously during a drill. His left Achilles tendon gave out.
In April’s NFL draft, he fell out of the first round and to the Ravens, who picked him No. 45 overall. After missing all of the team’s offseason program, he practiced for the first time Oct. 12 and was activated to the 53-man roster Nov. 1. Then he waited and waited for the call-up, putting his “full trust” in the Ravens’ rehabilitation plan and probing teammates for tips on how he could be better.
“I’m glad he got the opportunity to go out there and finally play, man,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “He’s waited a while. It sucks to have that injury coming out in the draft, man, but it’s God’s plan. Everybody has a plan, and we want to rush ourselves to get out there, but I think he’s done a great job of being a great teammate, giving his all, giving looks on defense while he was obviously not up on Sundays.”
Ojabo joined a crowded rotation Saturday, stuck behind Justin Houston, Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh and Jason Pierre-Paul on the Ravens’ outside linebacker pecking order. But his burst could add a new dimension to the team’s outside pass rush, which has run hot and cold in recent games. Oweh, a former high school teammate, marveled last month at how fast his friend was moving, according to his GPS tracking data.
On Saturday, Ojabo struggled to find the words to describe his journey. “I just made it,” he said. He was living his dream, only this dream, he joked, had players faster and stronger than anyone he’d ever faced.
“It’s been a long journey, man,” he said. “I know it’ll be all worth it in the end.”