R. Lewis may sit for second week in a row

Ravens linebacker listed as doubtful for Jags game due to dislocated shoulder

`I don't know if I can play'

Star misses practice

his availability is likely to be determined Sunday

October 17, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' biggest star remains their biggest question mark.

Ray Lewis was listed as doubtful yesterday with a partially dislocated left shoulder, making him a long shot to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The All-Pro linebacker injured his shoulder on Oct. 6 in Cleveland against the Browns and sat out last Sunday's loss to the Colts in Indianapolis, ending his streak of 63 consecutive starts.

Regarded as one of the game's premier defenders, Lewis missed yesterday's practice and probably won't practice today. His availability likely won't be determined until Sunday.

"I don't know if I can play," Lewis said. "I want to, but Tess [trainer Bill Tessendorf] and the doctors will let me know. My gut tells me that if I can play, it will be a game-time decision."

Lewis has missed five games in his seven-year career, with the Ravens giving up an average of 25 points in his absence.

If Lewis can't go, the Ravens will fill his void with the combination of Bernardo Harris and Cornell Brown. Harris has played that spot in the team's base defense, and Brown has taken over in passing situations.

Team officials are cautious about rushing Lewis back. He is still experiencing pain in the shoulder, and it could slip out of the socket again if he comes back too early.

"We don't want to risk long-term ramifications here," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're going to be smart about this."

Unlike their situation with Lewis, the Ravens are overly concerned about a rash of injuries to their offense.

Two of their top pass catchers - receiver Brandon Stokley (ankle) and tight end Todd Heap (chest) - as well as three starting linemen - center Mike Flynn (ankle), right guard Bennie Anderson (knee) and right tackle Ethan Brooks (knee) - are listed as questionable.

But the Ravens expect all to suit up Sunday. Only Lewis, Brooks and defensive end Michael McCrary (knee) missed practice yesterday.

"I think everybody has a very, very good chance of playing," Billick said.

Of the injured offensive group, Stokley has drawn the most concern since he has to make cuts while coping with a high right ankle sprain. He has been the Ravens' most consistent big-play receiver, producing six of the team's 11 catches over 20 yards.

Stokley is confident he'll be in the lineup Sunday.

"When I was running on it, it felt good," said Stokley, who missed his first game since Oct. 29, 2000." It didn't feel like it did in Indy. If we were to play today, I could have played on it."

There is no such certainty with Lewis.

The Ravens say there is a chance Lewis could be upgraded to questionable today and improve enough to work out with the team tomorrow. Still, the Ravens are working under the assumption that Lewis will miss his second straight game.

"We have to prepare as though he won't be there," Billick said. "Having done that now, we're ahead of the curve. We've shown we can hold up."

Despite losing, 22-20, to the Colts on Sunday, the Ravens gained confidence that they could succeed without Lewis.

When Lewis went down in Cleveland, the Ravens gave up three touchdowns in one quarter and allowed 7.0 yards per play. In Indianapolis, the Ravens gave up a touchdown on the opening drive and then settled down, surrendering 4.1 yards per play after that.

"I think a lot of people in the NFL are scratching their heads about the Baltimore Ravens, especially about the young team we got," cornerback Gary Baxter said. "They see we are able to play and be competitors against any team we play against."

Out of Lewis' shadow, inside linebacker Ed Hartwell rose to the occasion, busting through blockers to register a career-best 11 tackles.

"Football is not a one-man show," Hartwell said. "When you lose a guy like Ray Lewis, that's detrimental. But other guys have to step up and make plays. I think that's what we showed."

Most likely, the Ravens will have to show that again against the Jaguars.

Perhaps with Lewis patrolling the sideline rather than the middle of their defense, the Ravens will have to contain the likes of quarterback Mark Brunell, running back Fred Taylor and receiver Jimmy Smith.

"I am making improvement, but this is very frustrating," Lewis said. "It's no fun coaching. If my energy and passion can be felt by the guys during this, I'll do the best I can to keep it up. I can't wait to get back on the field. I'm doing everything I can to get back."

Next for Ravens

Opponent:Jacksonville Jaguars

Site:Ravens Stadium

When:Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line:Ravens by 1 1/2

SunSpot:For more coverage, visit sunspot.net/ravens

Coming Sunday:A special section in The Sun commemorating the life and career of John Unitas.

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