Ravens 8-time Pro Bowl G Yanda to retire

  • University of Maryland graduate
  • Lives in the Baltimore area with his wife and son

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Marshal Yanda will announce his retirement this week, closing out one of the most decorated careers by a guard in NFL history, according to a league source.

Yanda, 35, played all of his 13 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, building a reputation based on toughness, technique and work ethic. The longtime anchor of Baltimore’s offensive line, Yanda contemplated walking away from the game last season but returned to help the Ravens set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single season (3,296) as well as the franchise mark for most points scored (531).

A third-round pick in 2007, Yanda is one of three guards in NFL history to earn at least eight Pro Bowl nods as a guard and win a Super Bowl. The others are Larry Allen and Alan Faneca.

Yanda’s retirement frees up $7 million in salary-cap space but leaves a major void at right guard. Baltimore could look to fill Yanda’s spot with Ben Powers, a fourth-round pick from last year, or through free agency and the draft.

Yanda was never the most athletic lineman. He wasn’t a physical specimen. There’s a reason why he was the 10th offensive lineman drafted 13 years ago.

But few played the position with as much grit, determination and understanding as Yanda. He brought a country strength that came from his days of growing up on a pig farm in Iowa. A powerful run-blocker, Yanda has shoved three defenders to single-handedly open a hole. A top-notch pass protector, he regularly allowed the fewest sacks at his position.

In 2014, then-offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Yanda is as good as any offensive lineman he’s been around. In 2015, coach John Harbaugh offered a prediction.

“He’s just a special human being and a special player,” Harbaugh said, adding, “and he’s a Hall of Famer someday.”

Yanda is the second-best offensive lineman in franchise history behind Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden. He earned Pro Bowl honors in eight of the last nine seasons, missing the 2017 campaign while out for 14 games with an ankle injury.

“Yanda has been one of the best guards that I’ve seen in my career over these last 10 years,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said last season.

Yanda has also been the epitome of toughness. The tales of Yanda’s willpower have reached legendary status in Baltimore.

During his rookie season, Yanda volunteered to be zapped by a stun gun three times on a $600 bet. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the biggest testament to his pain tolerance.

Near the end of the 2012 season, Yanda developed compartment syndrome, which can result in the loss of a limb if not treated, and he was back on the field one game later after surgeons split a muscle in his lower leg to relieve the pressure.

“I just have a lot of respect for him and his body of work and how he plays. I always have,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s obvious that he’s the heartbeat of that unit and has been for a long time.”

The respect for Yanda started at the top of the Ravens organization. At practices, Yanda was the first person to get a fist-bump from owner Steve Bisciotti. During last year’s minicamp, Yanda and general manager Eric DeCosta regularly chatted on the sideline.

Teammates watched in awe how Yanda approached each drill with the same steely-eyed focus. He maintained the same strict routine, hitting the hot tub and eating breakfast like clockwork each day.

If a Ravens player wanted to know how to approach film study or the weight room, team officials would simply point to Yanda.

“Marshal cares about players and people, but he mostly cares about [bleeps] who can play the game,” Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon said. He’s like, ‘If you can’t play the game, shut the [bleep] up and stop [bleeping]. Do your part.’ When he finds out you can play, he opens up with you more.”

Yanda acknowledged that he thought about retiring toward the end of the 2018 season but came back because he finished the season healthy. He then agreed to add another year to his contract (he is signed through 2020), although he acted like this was his final season.

Known for being the grizzled, old-school lineman, Yanda joked around more than ever before. After the Ravens’ win over the New England Patriots, Yanda walked into the locker room and lifted up DeCosta in what Harbaugh later described as a “double suplex wrestling move.” Yanda went out of his comfort zone even more when he took over for Terrell Suggs to give the speech to teammates in the final on-field huddle before games.

What never changed was his play on the field. His eight Pro Bowls were the most among active guards. In his final season, he was named second-team All-Pro this season after allowing one sack and opening holes for the most prolific rushing attack in NFL history.

“When I tell my son or daughter about playing football, I’ll tell them he was one of the best guards I went up against in the league,” Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins said. “He’s got nastiness. He’s physical and he has finesse. He’s got the whole package.”

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