Ravens feel pain of Boller and J. Lewis

Shoulder sprains likely to slow but not sideline QB, NFL's leading rusher

Lingering effect to Lewis' injury

Non-throwing side hurt, rookie `should be fine'

October 21, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A day after the Ravens' painful 34-26 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Kyle Boller and running back Jamal Lewis were still feeling the sting.

Both are dealing with mild sprained shoulders sustained late in the fourth quarter in Cincinnati and are expected to be the two most prominent names on the Ravens' injury report tomorrow.

Lewis indicated he will be able to play through the pain in his right shoulder, but team officials admitted that the NFL's leading rusher probably will not be at full strength for the rest of the season.

The status of Boller's left (non-throwing) shoulder is considered more day-to-day. Although he would have been listed as questionable yesterday, the Ravens believe they can better determine the severity of his injury tomorrow.

"It is pretty sore for the first 24 to 48 hours, so we'll play it by ear," trainer Bill Tessendorf said of Boller. "But he has youth on his side."

While the Ravens remain optimistic that Boller will start against the Denver Broncos, they have been making contingency plans. If Boller is questionable tomorrow - giving him a 50 percent chance of playing - the rookie would split practice reps with backup Chris Redman.

Playing Boller could worsen his injury. His mild sprain could turn severe (sidelining him up to six weeks) if he takes a direct blow to the top of the shoulder or falls on his elbow, which would jolt his shoulder.

"It's painful as opposed to a problem," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We'll work through the week. It's in his non-throwing shoulder. He should be fine, but we'll monitor it very closely.

"If there's still a tenderness there [tomorrow], then yeah, we will have to make our adjustments during the week and decide if indeed it's tender enough that we need to think heavily about Chris."

The injury came at the end of a mixed performance by the first-round draft pick.

Boller completed 15 of 27 passes for 302 yards and a 104.2 quarterback rating, more than doubling his league worst mark of 48.9. But the Ravens trailed 24-7 at halftime largely because of his two fumbles and an interception.

Boller's effort was underlined by tenacity. After being slammed into the ground with 1:20 left in the game, a grimacing Boller waved off Redman and threw a two-point conversion to Todd Heap.

"There was no way that he was coming out of the game, and that's a good sign," Billick said. "For him to come back and make the throws he did while being hurt, you've got to be impressed with that."

Forty seconds before Boller's injury, Lewis aggravated the shoulder injury he sustained the week before in Arizona and couldn't return. He will likely have to ride out the injury for the rest of the season.

Lewis leads the NFL with 843 yards rushing and remains on pace to break the league's single-season record.

As the yards have piled up, so have the injuries. Lewis sprained his other shoulder against Kansas City on Sept. 28 but nursed it back to health during the bye week. There's no such break now for Lewis, who expects to continue his physical running style between the tackles for at least the next two months.

"I'm sure he's going to be sore throughout the year simply by the way he plays," Tessendorf said.

The coaching staff said the shoulder has not changed the way Lewis has run or plowed into tacklers.

Lewis said the injury doesn't bother him when he collides with defenders or blocks. The pain comes when lands on his side and the shoulder gets driven into the ground.

"There's always been a concern in the organization that he runs so hard that it brings about a lot of physical issues," running backs coach Matt Simon said. "Given the history of injury, those are part of the risks. But that's also part of the gain."

Losing Lewis would mean losing the Ravens' run-dominated game plan.

"If Jamal were not there, we have a lot of faith in Chester [Taylor] and will continue to develop Musa [Smith]. But they're not Jamal right now," Billick said. "We're not going to abandon the running game, but that will make us fall more on the passing game for sure."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Denver Broncos (5-2) vs. Ravens (3-3)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 1 1/2

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