McCrary to miss rest of season

Ravens' top sacker says knee surgery won't allow his return

`Fought as long as I could'

End excelled despite inability to practice

Burnett still out, too

November 20, 2001|By Jamison Hensley and Mike Preston | Jamison Hensley and Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Heading into the stretch run, the Ravens' title defense has taken another major hit.

Defensive end Michael McCrary told The Sun that he will be out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery yesterday. The defending Super Bowl champions have lost three starters this season, with McCrary joining injured running back Jamal Lewis and right tackle Leon Searcy.

McCrary, the Ravens' sack leader this season, described the procedure as a non-weight bearing surgery, meaning he cannot walk on the leg for a month. The knee injury, which occurred in the season opener Sept. 9, will keep him in a wheelchair and crutches until the middle of December.

"It sucks I'm out for the season," McCrary said. "I fought as long as I could, but I didn't have any more push [in the leg]."

Ravens officials declined to comment on the specifics of the injury yesterday, saying they would make a formal announcement today. That's when they'll likely put Mc- Crary on injured reserve, ending his season of perseverance.

Unable to participate in a full practice since the first week of the regular season, the nine-year veteran is fourth on the team with 64 tackles and seventh in the AFC with 7 1/2 sacks.

The team originally believed McCrary needed surgery to repair cartilage in the knee, an arthroscopic procedure that would have sidelined him one to three weeks (including a bye week Dec. 9). But the surgeons found more severe damage in the knee.

In Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Mc- Crary finished with five tackles, an interception and a pass deflection. He proved his relentless attitude by making the final two tackles of the game.

"At first, I wasn't feeling it. It wasn't killing me," Mc- Crary said. "I was getting the knee drained every week before the game. The only reason I didn't tell anybody is because I didn't want the other team to know. I tried to go as long as I could, but when you can't even get up and go to the bathroom, you can only go so far."

A picture of consistency, Mc- Crary has had at least nine sacks in four of his past five seasons. His 60 1/2 sacks are the most in the NFL since midway through the 1996 season.

He had been the Ravens' iron man, starting in a franchise-best 72 straight games.

"He's a tough guy and he plays through it," defensive line coach Rex Ryan said. "I think what happens is that you always assume everything is OK because he plays so hard. You wish everybody has that kind of motor. We just have to wait and see."

A fixture on the injury report all season, McCrary had been recording a Pro Bowl-type season despite battling through knee pain. He delayed surgery last week because the Ravens' other starting end, Rob Burnett, couldn't play with a severely strained calf.

Yesterday marked McCrary's fifth knee operation since joining the Ravens in 1997. But the 31-year-old indicated that he is not considering retirement.

"Honestly, I came into this season and the knee felt as good as it's ever felt since coming to Baltimore," he said. "I think this season, up to this point, I've played well. But I always have high expectations.

"Now, I'm good for training purposes. This won't take away from my off-season training. I can work out and get it right."

With McCrary out for the season and Burnett likely sidelined this week, the Ravens will be without both their starting defensive ends for Sunday's game at Jacksonville. Burnett could return next week.

That means the Ravens' starting ends could be Adalius Thomas, who started his first NFL game on Sunday, and Kelly Gregg, their primary backup at end last week. The Ravens mixed and matched on Sunday, with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams even spending some time at end.

On passing downs, the Ravens likely will go with linebackers Peter Boulware and Shannon Taylor as the rushing ends.

"Adalius and Kelly did some good things, and that was encouraging," Ryan said. "You hope Rob is progressing and hopefully we'll get him back. So, whoever is out there is going to represent us and we'll have all the confidence in the world in them."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Site: ALLTEL Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.

When: Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Off the board.

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