Boulware says he's unsure of availability for opener

Raven receives go-ahead to step up rehab of knee

July 01, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Peter Boulware said yesterday that he has been cleared by doctors to increase the rehabilitation on his injured right knee, which officially begins his road to recovery in earnest.

The question that remains is when will that road end?

The Ravens' Pro Bowl linebacker had no definitive answers, expressing doubts for the first time that he will be able to play in the Ravens' opener at Cleveland on Sept. 12.

"To be honest with you, I don't know," said Boulware from Vail, Colo., where he was re-evaluated by Dr. Richard Steadman. "It's tough to tell. The competitor in me would like to say I would be ready to play the first game. But realistically, there is a chance I may not. It's one of those things that only the knee will determine."

Ravens officials have long expected Boulware to miss the fifth training camp of his eight-year career after undergoing knee surgery in January, but they were optimistic about him returning as a situational pass rusher for the first part of the regular season.

Since joining the Ravens as the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft, Boulware has been one of the franchise's most durable players, battling through injuries to his shoulders, ankles and knees. He had played in 111 straight games before missing the final two games last season (including the playoff loss to Tennessee) with a knee sprain.

But this time might be different for Boulware.

When asked where this injury ranked among his previous ones, Boulware said, "This is probably my toughest one. With everything that is above the waist, I can play through the pain and try to overcompensate with something else. I'm a type of player that relies on his legs and his speed.

"This is not the type of injury where I can go out on the football field and be 90 percent and play. As most people know, football is a game of inches. If I'm a half-second slower than I normally am, I'm not going to be as effective as I should be."

Boulware, 29, said he can step up his workouts every couple of weeks, from increasing the incline on the treadmill to eventually starting to jog. He also said he could begin to lift weights with his injured knee.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection will start more intensive workouts with team trainer Bill Tessendorf on July 30, the start of training camp at McDaniel College.

"Hopefully, I can be more aggressive with the rehab now," Boulware said. "They said everything is healing perfectly. So, it's just a matter of time, hopefully."

There had been speculation that the knee injury was so severe that it would limit him to being a pass-rushing specialist for the entire season.

But Boulware, who has recorded a franchise-best 67 1/2 sacks, said he expects to be an every-down linebacker at some point this season. In Boulware's absence, Adalius Thomas has filled in with the starting defense during minicamps.

"I've gone through this many times before - missing training camp and dealing with a knee injury - so I know you have to take your time coming back," Boulware said. "Being a third-down rusher at first is an option, so I'll get a feel of the game and get mentally back where I need to be. Once I get that back, I should be able to play 100 percent of the time."

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