List the best centers in the NFL, and it won't take you long to get to Frank Ragnow. As the literal centerpiece of one of the NFL's best offensive lines, his absence is noticeable based on domino effect alone and he has missed two games this season as he adds occasional ailments to an ongoing toe issue.
Ragnow missed Week 14 against the Chicago Bears due to a knee injury suffered the previous week, before returning in Week 15 against the Denver Broncos. His brother revealed he had meniscus surgery on that injured knee, and played at presumably a little less than full strength Saturday night.
Does this look like the tape and numbers someone who is playing at less than full strength would put out there?
Frank Ragnow is better very banged up than most centers are at full strength
Ragnow playing through a significant turf toe injury like he is is no joke. Someone who had turf toe one time told me years ago "it seems like such a chicken sh*t injury, but it's not." So there's that. There are certainly residual, kinetic chain-type injuries he's inviting by playing with it, like the calf issue he missed a game with earlier this season and the back issue he's been dealing with in recent weeks.
On Monday, Dan Campbell confirmed Ragnow had meniscus surgery. The Lions' head coach also went a little deeper to talk about the toughness of his Pro Bowl center.
That's how Frank is," Campbell said. "Frank is going to will himself to play. His mind controls his body, which we talk about all the time. The good ones can do that. He's what we already know. He's a tough dude and he's mind over matter."
"But ultimately what it's about for him ... he is terrified of letting his teammates down. That means more to him than anything. It's just the way he is. That's why guys respect the hell out of him."
Pro Football Focus has Ragnow ranked as the No. 2 center in the league this season. He has not allowed a sack thus far, and he's a persistent force in the run game. There's no doubt he's one of the Lions' most important players, if not their most important player based on the numbers provided by Nate Tice of The Athletic.
The yards per play difference and related league rank isn't awful. But based on success rate, Expected Points Added Per Play and the eye test, the Lions become one of the worst offenses in the league without Ragnow.
It's a little late to start a league MVP campaign for Ragnow, and it would fail anyway. But there's no doubt he's the Lions' Team MVP this year, and he won't be dethroned as the toughest guy on the team until he retires.