No one in their right mind would ever question the toughness of Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow. This is a player who once fractured his throat in the first quarter of a game and ended up playing every single snap of that contest.
But despite knowing that, it was pretty shocking to hear this week—as revealed by his brother Jack—that Ragnow played Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos despite having meniscus surgery less than two weeks prior. Not only that, but Ragnow was a key cog to Detroit’s 42-17 victory over the Broncos, scoring an impressive 79.3 PFF grade, including a 79.0 run blocking grade that helped Detroit tally up 185 rushing yards on Saturday night.
Monday, Lions coach Dan Campbell gave a little more context to Ragnow’s situation, noting that the veteran center was adamant he would only miss a single game due to his latest injury.
“I called Frank on the way out (from surgery) and he probably doesn’t even remember it because of what he was on, but I know this, he did say, ‘I’ll be back for the next game. I’ll be back by practice on Wednesday,’” Campbell recalled. “And sure enough, he was. And every day he kept telling me, ‘I’ll be ready next week, I’ll be ready next week.’ And so that’s how Frank is. Frank’s going to will himself. His mind controls his body, which we talk about all the time and the good ones can do that.”
It’s been a tough-it-out year for Ragnow. He’s been on the injury report every single week of the season, still dealing with a toe injury from years ago. At this point, Ragnow’s name on the injury report is typically followed by three different injuries: toe, knee, back.
But Ragnow has fought through it all. According to Campbell, Ragnow is the extreme version of team before self.
“He’s a tough dude and he’s a mind over matter (guy), but ultimately, what it’s about for him, I just go back to this, you can call it what you want, he is terrified of letting his teammates down,” Campbell said. “That means more to him than anything. That’s just the way he is, and that’s why guys respect the hell out of him.”
It’s hard to quantify just how important Ragnow is to what the Lions do. Not only is he a key cog to their second-ranked rushing game (by yardage), but he barks out protection adjustments that have helped the entire unit allow just 28 sacks on the season—sixth-fewest in the NFL. Just look at how dominant the Lions have been with him—and the rest of the starting offensive line—in the lineup:
With a starting O-line of Decker-Jackson-Ragnow-Glasgow-Sewell, the #Lions are 5-0 and average an NFL-leading:— Will Burchfield (@burchie_kid) December 18, 2023
179.4 rushing yards
5.5 yards per carry
And Jared Goff has a passer rating of 121.73
That's the O-line they could take into the playoffs.
And Ragnow’s toughness is quite literally right in the center of that.
“It’s that difference maker in him that just kind of wills himself to overcome issues, adversity, whatever you want to call it,” Campbell said.