But it's not a major blow to the Baltimore defense. That is, if the Ravens can avoid a series of injuries that devastated their secondary a year ago.
Elam was going to be the Ravens' No. 3 safety at best. He wasn't going to beat out Will Hill for the strong safety spot. It was going to be hard for the Ravens to put their trust in Elam so soon after he struggled mightily in the divisional playoff game in New England.
Before you say the Ravens didn't need Elam, you should check the team's depth chart. Baltimore's top backup safeties are now Anthony Levine (who played cornerback last season), Brynden Trawick (50 defensive snaps last season) and undrafted rookie Nick Perry. Terrence Brooks, a 2014 third-round pick who suffered a season-ending knee injury last year, would improve the depth at that position if he can come off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Elam represented the Ravens' best insurance policy. He was having his best offseason since the Ravens drafted him in the first round in 2013. He was in good shape, and he was impressing the coaching staff with his attitude. And, unlike the other backups, he has starting experience (26 starts in two seasons).
The cruelest part of the timing of the injury is that it comes at a time when Elam was starting to gain some confidence. Last season, he led the Ravens with 18 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. He also allowed 16.3 yards per completion, which was ninth-worst among NFL safeties. It looked like Elam was in an emotional funk.
By all indications, he was making strides after a season in which he lost his starting job and team officials publicly challenged him. Now, this latest setback will be an even bigger test to how Elam handles adversity.