Injury might knock Ravens' R. Lewis out of Colts game

Team fearful linebacker could cause more damage to dislocated left shoulder

Lewis: `It isn't anything major'

October 08, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

After winning twice before a national audience, the Ravens may be forced to pull their star headliner this week.

Ray Lewis partially dislocated his left shoulder late in the third quarter of Sunday's 26-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns and sat out the critical fourth quarter. The five-time Pro Bowl linebacker will be listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) at the very least in tomorrow's injury report and may be doubtful (25 percent) for Sunday, when the AFC North-leading Ravens (2-2) play at the Indianapolis Colts (3-1).

A magnetic resonance imaging test confirmed that the shoulder slid to the edge of the joint and popped back into place. Further tests were expected to reveal no extensive damage.

Lewis, who is on pace to shatter his career high in tackles, has started 63 consecutive games and hasn't been sidelined since Oct. 11, 1998.

"It's painful, but if I can get the soreness out, I'll play," Lewis said. "They don't want to jeopardize me for the year. It isn't anything major. It's just one of those things that's precautionary more than anything."

But the Ravens have to weigh the risk of playing him now and possibly causing long-term problems. Rushing him back this week could lead to a chronic condition.

"Ray is pretty tough and I'm sure he'll want to work through it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The hard thing is how much work does he get this week or how much do we have to put him on a shelf and possibly bring him back out on Sunday. Playing on [artificial] turf is a factor as well."

Lewis injured his shoulder with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, when his left arm jammed into the turf as he attempted to recover a fumble. After walking off the field with his arm dangling by his side, Lewis tried to come back for a few plays but was removed for good by Billick at the end of the third quarter.

That's when the Ravens got a sneak preview of how much their defense depends on Lewis, who finished with an interception, a fumble recovery and four tackles.

With Lewis in the lineup, the Ravens shut out the Browns for three quarters and allowed 5.8 yards per play. Without him, they surrendered three touchdowns in one quarter and gave up 7.0 yards per play.

The Ravens, however, showed resiliency at the end without their leader, securing their second straight win when rookie safety Ed Reed intercepted the Browns' final pass in the end zone.

"I was encouraged by the way the young players stepped up and played as a unit when the heart and soul of that defensive unit went down," Billick said. "It could have been better clearly, and we needed to make more plays. But that group did not panic and they stuck together."

To reduce any further damage, the Ravens have discussed putting a harness on Lewis' left arm. It would limit his mobility but would lessen the chances of the shoulder sliding out.

"The plan is to treat it, get his range of motion back, get strength in it and probably protect it," trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "We'll just play it by ear. We'll know more each day."

The Ravens have begun forming their backup plan if Lewis cannot go. The team has talked about using the combination of veteran Bernardo Harris and rookie Bart Scott to fill Lewis' huge void.

Harris, a starter the previous five seasons with the Green Bay Packers, is known as a run stopper and has been inactive for three of the Ravens' four games this season. Scott, an undrafted rookie out of Southern Illinois, has played primarily on special teams but has seen some time in passing situations.

There's also the possibility of flipping between a 3-4 and 4-3 alignment in which Ed Hartwell would become the middle linebacker. The defensive staff will meet to find out what is the best matchup against quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts.

"It's determining who our best 11 are against what they do," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "That's the decision. It could mean 4-3, 3-4 or a lot of things."

Though Lewis considers his status up in the air for Sunday, he made it clear that the injury won't keep him away from the action for long.

"It's all right," Lewis said. "It's not the worst. I can move it. But it hurts like hell."

Follow the leader

A look at how the Ravens' defense fared Sunday night with and without Ray Lewis:

Stat....With....Without

Time....3 quarters....1 quarter

TDs....0....3

First downs....8....13

Total yards....228....205

Yards per play....5.8....7.0

Next for Ravens

Opponent:Indianapolis Colts

Site:RCA Dome, Indianapolis

When:Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Colts by 6 1/2

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