Lions' Frank Ragnow plays through fractured throat, status in doubt for Sunday
It happened early in last Sunday's game against Green Bay. Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow came up to Matthew Stafford on the bench, nearly hoarse, and told the quarterback he'd need to handle making the line calls the rest of the day.
At the time, backup quarterback Chase Daniel thought it was pretty funny, a center who couldn't talk, but it turns out Ragnow had suffered a serious injury, a fractured throat.
The injury was first reported by the NFL Network on Wednesday and confirmed by multiple teammates and members of the coach staff that afternoon.
Amazingly, Ragnow didn't leave the game, keeping his streak of playing every offensive snap this season intact. He also didn't allow a single sack, hit or even a quarterback pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.
"Never heard of (a fractured throat), but I knew something was going on," Stafford said. "Pretty crazy he was able to finish the game with that."
But after being held out of Wednesday's practice, and given the knowledge of the actual injury, Ragnow seems unlikely to be available for this weekend's game with the Tennessee Titans.
That would leave the Lions scrambling to find a starting replacement for yet another high-profile player. The team has been without wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) and defensive end Trey Flowers (arm) the past six weeks, cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring) is on injured reserve and first-round draft pick Jeff Okudah (groin) joined him there Wednesday, plus Detroit had to start their third-string right tackle against the Packers.
Oh, and then there's Stafford, who is also hurt and not expected to practice this week with a rib injury. His status against Tennessee remains up the in air.
According to an study posted on the National Institute of Health's website, a fractured throat, also known as a laryngeal fracture, is rare. It is frequently the result of blunt force trauma directly to the throat and seen most commonly in auto accidents and sports.
Watching back the film of the first quarter, where Ragnow reportedly suffered the issue, there was no clear evidence of an injuring blow.
In 2017, then-Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Henry Anderson fractured the cartilage and collapsed part of his larynx. He also continued to play, only realizing something was wrong when he tried to yell. According to a story from The Athletic, doctors told Anderson had his larynx collapsed more it could have been a fatal injury.
Prior to suffering the injury, Ragnow had been playing at or near a Pro Bowl level.
"Yeah, he's played awesome," Stafford said. "He's playing fantastic — ultra-physical in the run game, does a really nice job in the pass game as well, just cleaning up a bunch of stuff. And when he gets one-on-one, he plays at a really high level.
"We're lucky to have him," Stafford continued. "He's a young player that's got a ton of talent, a ton of ability, the right head on his shoulders and works extremely hard and leads those guys really well. Love him as a teammate. Obviously, he'll play through a bunch and just fights every weekend for us."
If Ragnow can't play, the most likely option to replace him would be Joe Dahl. A fifth-year pro, he started at left guard last season and to begin the 2020 campaign, before suffering a groin injury. He's also seen time at fullback during his career, but has yet to take a regular-season snap at center.
"I think it's a little different," Dahl said earlier this year. "I think we do a really good job here as guards of just being on the same page of the center at all times. We go to a lot of the same meetings, do a lot of the same communicating, especially with Matt (Stafford), so I think that we've done a really good job of always being on top of that and I think that's always kind of prepared me for that.
"I think there is a different aspect to it, and there's a little bit more mental, but Frank always helps me with that and he's a really awesome voice to lean on."