R. Lewis could miss rest of Ravens' season

Star linebacker has torn right hamstring

December 06, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

A day after they were officially eliminated from the playoffs, the Ravens acknowledged the possibility that linebacker Ray Lewis could be done for the season.

In yesterday's news conference, Ravens coach Brian Billick revealed for the first time that Lewis has a torn right hamstring, an injury that might require surgery to repair.

Lewis, who has missed six straight games, did not attend Sunday's 16-15 win over the Houston Texans and instead sought out a second opinion from a specialist in Miami, according to Billick.

This latest consultation changed the Ravens' long-running stand that the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year would return this season.

A decision on Lewis' status is not expected until tomorrow because he remains in Miami. But a league source said it would be a surprise to see the former All-Pro suit up for any of the Ravens' last four games.

"There are varying opinions as to whether you do a surgery on this and there are prevailing opinions that say no, that the strength is good," Billick said. "That's something he and the doctors will have to sort through. Obviously, if they decide that it would put him in additional risk long term and if surgery is required, then clearly that would do him for the rest of the season."

Billick admitted that the Ravens' underachieving 4-8 season could be a persuading factor in Lewis not playing again this season.

It would seem illogical for a 30-year-old linebacker to risk injury and suffer wear and tear in a string of meaningless games when he could rest up for next season, when the Ravens try to break a two-year postseason drought.

"We would look at it probably differently if we were in the middle of a playoff hunt," Billick said. "That's a fair way to look at it and that's something a player certainly has to consider. We would love to have Ray back, but we wouldn't want to do anything that jeopardizes his health both short and long term."

Lewis is not the Ravens' only injury concern.

Backup cornerback Zach Norton (shoulder) will become the third Ravens player to be placed on injured reserve in the span of a week, and starting defensive end Tony Weaver could be next.

Weaver did not play Sunday after hurting his back picking up a basketball late last week at the Owings Mills training complex. The severity of the injury won't be determined until the back "calms down."

"It could - I'll just underline could - pre-empt him from the rest of the season," Billick said.

If Lewis is done for the year, it would end his most disappointing season in the NFL.

There was a great deal of hype surrounding the Ravens' switch to a four-man front, which would help keep blockers off of Lewis and allow him to dominate like he did in 2000 and 2001. He even predicted this offseason that he would become the NFL Most Valuable Player.

But the season has not gone as planned. According to the league's official Web site, Lewis averaged 7.6 tackles a game this season, the worst of his 10-year career.

Still, it's difficult to minimize Lewis' impact on this defense.

In 18 games without Lewis since 2002, the Ravens have given up seven 100-yard rushers, including the past two games (Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson and Houston's Domanick Davis).

The Ravens have dropped from No. 9 to No. 12 in run defense during Lewis' absence and now face the NFL's second-best rushing attack Sunday with the Denver Broncos.

"We're a little undersized, and if you can isolate that, that tends to show up," Billick said. "We have to move some people around to account for that because of that size. The vogue thing in this league is to have two huge people inside and get into that four-man front. But we don't have that size and that bulk to go about it that way, so we have to address it in other ways."

The news about the Ravens potentially losing Lewis for the season comes at a time when they thought he was going to return.

Lewis, who tore his hamstring on Oct. 23 in Chicago, had been declared out for five straight weeks. But the seven-time Pro Bowl player was listed as questionable last week before being downgraded to doubtful on Friday.

"The standard prognosis has been to rest it for a period of time," Billick said. "As he approached the six-week period, it was feeling very, very good. As you normally do, you constantly re-image it. The tearing now is what it was."

Along with the mounting injuries yesterday, the Ravens had to deal with the finality of not making the postseason, the earliest they have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in Billick's seven seasons.

When told that the Ravens became one of nine teams that had been officially ousted, Billick said with a smile, "It took this long, are you kidding me?"

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Ravens@Broncos

Sunday, 4:15 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Broncos by 14

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