Allen Park — Fractured cartilage in his throat only managed to sideline Frank Ragnow for two games last season, but a toe injury will end the Pro Bowl center’s 2021 campaign.
A little more than a week after suffering the injury that already had landed Ragnow on injured reserve, a team source confirmed he will undergo season-ending surgery.
It’s another brutal blow to the Lions, who have seen several of their top players suffer long-term injuries this season. That group includes left tackle Taylor Decker, cornerback Jeff Okudah, outside linebacker Romeo Okwara and wide receiver Tyrell Williams.
A first-round draft pick out of Arkansas in 2018, Ragnow has managed to live up to lofty expectations. After an uneven rookie campaign at guard, he moved to center in 2019 and quickly developed into one of the league’s best performers at the position.
A model of durability, Ragnow played 100% of the team’s offensive snaps as a rookie and had missed just three games prior to suffering the toe injury, sitting one contest with a concussion in 2019 and the two with the throat injury last year.
For his performance in 2020, Ragnow was selected as a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career, and he was off to another strong start this year, grading out as the No. 2 player at his position, according to Pro Football Focus.
Ragnow also was selected as the team’s Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award nominee last season for best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
“I take a lot of pride, I guess, in just doing the right thing,” Ragnow said about the honor. “That’s kinda how my parents raised me and it’s definitely an honor to be recognized for that.”
This May, the Lions rewarded Ragnow with a four-year contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid center, something rookie general manager Brad Holmes had made an offseason priority.
“Frank is a foundational piece of what we’re building in Detroit and he is everything that we’re looking for in a Lion,” Holmes said after the deal was completed. “Frank plays the game the right way and he has dedicated himself to improving his craft each season. We are ecstatic to come to this agreement and to have Frank as a leader on our team for years to come.”
With Ragnow out of action, the team turns to Evan Brown, who made his first career start against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“Evan is a smart guy,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said last week. “There’s a number of reasons why he’s here. He’s been pretty steady and reliable, and I think knowledge-wise, he’s been right in Frank’s hip pocket. … I do like where Evan’s at, and mentally, he can certainly handle all of it, and I think physically, he’s going to be able to do his job and help us.”