'I got very lucky': Lions' Frank Ragnow breaks silence after scary injury
For two weeks, Frank Ragnow didn't say much of anything. Those were the doctors orders after the Detroit Lions center fractured cartilage in his throat last month against Green Bay.
But there's good news as the Lions prepare to play their season finale on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Ragnow is talking again, isn't expected to need surgery and should make a full recovery after suffering the frightening injury. Heck, he might even suit up for the game after returning to practice at the end of last week.
"Fortunately, nothing with the airway was threatened," Ragnow said Friday. "Like I said, the biggest concern was my vocal cords, and really the only treatment I could do is not talk. So, fortunately, I got very lucky that I just had to not talk and my vocal cords are on track to make a full recovery."
Not talking would be problematic for the average person, but particularly for Ragnow, who relies on his voice to play his position. Teammates playfully tried to get him to answer questions in meetings at practice, even getting him to break sometimes, but a bigger challenge was not being able to converse with his fiancée Lucy during the holiday season.
"It definitely sucked," Ragnow said. "You definitely get a whole new perspective on just kind of taking everything in. But I guess it was good that if I ever did try to talk, my voice did not sound well. So that very much urged me to stop talking, so that was the good part of it. It was definitely a unique perspective, and it's definitely something I don't wish upon anyone, that's for sure."
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Ragnow has felt guilty sitting out the past two games. He admits he could have played, there were no physical limitations, but the risk of further damaging his vocal cords was a risk not worth taking.
Still, he might have rolled the dice on it had his mother not talked some sense into him.
"It's just my voice, but I had to listen to my mom and realize that my voice is very important," Ragnow said.
The injury occurred in the first quarter of the team's Dec. 13 game against Green Bay. As Ragnow describes it, it wasn't a dirty play so much as an awkward hit, where his pads came up into his throat.
"I started hurting pretty bad and my voice sounded like, you know, when your dog is chewing on a squeaker toy? When the squeaker toy gets broken and it's kinda wispy. ...I kept on talking to the medical team and their main concern was my airway and my airway was never threatened."
Remarkably, he stayed in the game. Not only that, he didn't allow a single quarterback pressure in the loss.
Ragnow tried to downplay that aspect of the injury, noting that not knowing the severity in the moment helped him stay focused. It's that combination of performance and toughness that helped him earn Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career this season.
Too bad he wasn't allowed to talk about it when he found out.
"That was one of the tougher experiences too, I'm not going to lie," he said. "Something I've had a goal in mind from the day I started playing this game, and a dream of mine, and for that to come to fruition is, I mean, unreal. It sucked — I mean, I wanted to FaceTime my mom, and I literally couldn't talk my mom, so that was the frustrating part, waiting to celebrate with my family, because they were all really excited."
Ragnow has been officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game, along with linebacker Jamie Collins (neck) and quarterback Matthew Stafford (thumb, rib, ankle).
Stafford practiced in a limited capacity the past two days after exiting last weekend's contest in the first quarter due to rolling his ankle.
"I think he just really wanted to do a little bit and just test it out (on Thursday), see where it’s at, and then be able to see how it would feel today," interim coach Darrell Bevell said. "...There was no setback. He’s still improving. I mean, he’s sore, he has some issues going on, but he was out there. He didn’t do a ton, but he was limited in practice. So we'll see how he goes today and what it feels like tomorrow."