R. Lewis braces for start Marchibroda declares linebacker fit to play

October 15, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis practiced yesterday for the first time since dislocating his left elbow against Jacksonville 24 days earlier, and Lewis looked so good to Ted Marchibroda that the Ravens coach pronounced him fit to start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lewis, who wore a cumbersome brace on the elbow, worked extensively with the first-team defense, although he gave way to backup Tyrus McCloud during 11-on-11 drills. Like most practices, yesterday's featured only light contact.

"He looked awfully good. From what he showed today, it looks like there's no question he'll play Sunday," Marchibroda said of Lewis. "The more he's on the field, the better football team we'll be. I don't think the brace will impair his ability to play."

Lewis has made impressive progress in recent days. By yesterday, he had regained nearly 80 percent of range of motion in the elbow, according to Bill Tessendorf, the Ravens' head trainer.

"It doesn't really hurt me that much," Lewis said. "Hopefully, I can go on Sunday. Hopefully, I won't have to keep this brace on. It's uncomfortable. The range of motion is almost all of the way back. I just want to make sure I can get in there and do what I do."

The Ravens' 4-3 defense has suffered without Lewis, who led the NFL in tackles as a second-year player last season and was named to his first Pro Bowl. He has missed 11 consecutive quarters since going down on the final play of the first quarter against the Jaguars. In his absence, the Ravens have allowed Jacksonville's Fred Taylor, Cincinnati's Corey Dillon and Tennessee's Eddie George to each rush for more than 100 yards.

The Ravens are 1-2 without Lewis, although their defense allowed only a combined 29 points against Cincinnati and Tennessee.

Tessendorf said Lewis was examined yesterday morning by team doctor Claude T. Moorman, who was encouraged by what jTC he saw. Tessendorf reserved judgment on Lewis' availability against the Steelers.

"Today, he felt good and he looked good out there. But I guess I'm in the guarded optimism category," Tessendorf said. "If he turns up sore tomorrow, maybe it goes sour [for this week's game].

"He had not had a great deal of motion, and he turned a corner last weekend. He has functional motion now. What's his conditioning like? He hasn't hit anybody yet. Basically, Ray is coming along, but we're not out of the woods yet. We're moving in the right direction."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Site: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh

When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Steelers by 5 1/2

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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