R. Lewis' injury tears hole in Ravens Dislocated elbow sends team's emotional leader and top tackler to bench

Jaguars 24, Ravens 10

September 21, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback Mark Brunell did more than anyone to change the course of yesterday's 24-10 victory over the Ravens, but the emotional low point of the game occurred at the end of the first quarter, when the heart of the Ravens' defense hit the ground and began screaming in pain.

So middle linebacker Ray Lewis is human, after all.

Lewis, who overcame a scary neck injury in his 1997 training camp and went on to lead the NFL in tackles and make the Pro Bowl in only his second season, is about to take a seat on the bench.

Lewis suffered a dislocated left elbow on the last play of the quarter while helping Rob Burnett tackle Jaguars running back Fred Taylor for a 1-yard loss. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said Lewis could be out for only two weeks, although an MRI exam today could reveal more serious damage to his elbow.

"I knew [the elbow] was out as soon as I saw it," said Lewis, who had his arm in a sling in the locker room. "It just popped out, it looked all puffy, and the bone was sticking out. I was thinking, 'No way, this can't be.' "

Lewis suffered the injury as he was bracing his fall with his left hand. As he hit the ground, teammate Tony Siragusa, who was pursuing on the play, got pushed to the ground and appeared to fall on Lewis' arm. Siragusa was the first player to bounce up and immediately signal the Ravens' sideline for medical help.

"When I got up, I saw Ray's elbow, I heard him scream, and it scared me," Siragusa said.

Lewis lay on the ground for nearly 10 minutes, before being helped to the sideline. And the Ravens felt a collective lump in their throats, as their unquestioned leader was led into the locker room.

Backup Tyrus McCloud took over for Lewis and performed capably, recording a team-high nine tackles, including six solos. McCloud missed several other tackles, though, and he failed to cover Jacksonville tight end Damon Jones on a 1-yard touchdown pass by Brunell that pretty much sealed the victory with 4: 14 left in the third quarter.

At one point in the second half, McCloud left briefly with cramps in both calves, turning over the middle linebacker chores to Cornell Brown.

"It's an emotional loss. Ray is a leader. We depend on him to pick everybody up and be there," McCloud said. "Ray is a tough act to follow. He's a special breed. The next person has to step up, and I tried to do it. But it's hard to emulate the type of player he is. I just tried to go in there and take it play-by-play and get into the flow."

"Losing Ray Lewis was a major letdown," outside linebacker Peter Boulware said. "He's the cornerstone of our defense."

In the best-case scenario, the Ravens will lose Lewis for only one game, since they have a bye week after playing host to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Lewis sounded disappointed in what he witnessed from the sidelines after returning to watch the action in street clothes.

"I felt a lot of pain because I couldn't be out there. Then I saw the rest of the guys [on defense] and I saw no fire," Lewis said. "I don't let guys in my huddle slouch. You've got to play.

"It was 10-10 at the half, and we were in this game. Some of the guys just have to take a reality check. You don't know who is going to go down, or when they are going to go down. But whenever it happens, other people have to step up."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Site: Ravens stadium

When: Sunday, 8: 20 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Tickets: About 3,000 remain

Series: Bengals lead 3-1

Last meeting: Bengals won, 16-14, on Dec. 21, 1997, in Cincinnati

Line: Ravens by 5 1/2

Pub Date: 9/21/98

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