R. Lewis could miss game vs. Titans with back injury


November 11, 2006|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

The NFL's third-ranked defense could be without a starter for the first time this season.

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis is considered a game-time decision for tomorrow's game against the Tennessee Titans, coach Brian Billick said after yesterday's practice.

Lewis bruised his back Sunday and has missed every practice this week. Lewis said he expected earlier in the week to start - even predicting he would practice by the end of the week - but it appears his back hasn't progressed quickly enough.

"Everything's [structurally] fine, but it's stiff," Billick said of Lewis' back. "It hurts."

If Lewis misses the game, he would be replaced by Mike Smith. A seventh-round pick in 2005, Smith would be making his first NFL start.

"Mike had a great preseason for us and has been a solid special teams performer," Billick said. "I don't doubt Mike's ability to come in and do the job if need be."

Lewis, who remains questionable on the injury report, wasn't in the locker room immediately after practice.

If the Ravens play without Lewis, they would miss his range the most.

While Lewis has the speed to chase down running backs from sideline to sideline, Smith's pursuit is best between the tackles. Smith has good speed - he's typically one of the first players down on coverage teams - but he isn't as quick when changing directions.

"I prepare every week to play," Smith said. "If it's my time to come up, I'm ready to play."

Smith said he has taken all the snaps with the starters this week, which has helped him get comfortable after not playing a down of defense in the regular season.

"I would love to get out there and play some linebacker," Smith said. "It's always been my dream to be a starting linebacker in the NFL. Of course, I'm excited and am looking forward to it."

Lewis injured himself on the third play of the fourth quarter Sunday, when safety Ed Reed accidentally drove his knee into Lewis' back on an apparent fumble return that should have been whistled dead.

After lying on the ground for a few minutes, Lewis did not miss a play, though he was later driven back into the end zone by Bengals running back Rudi Johnson.

Judging by Lewis' condition, it might be in the Ravens' best interest to sit him tomorrow. With physical games over the next four weeks - against Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Kansas City - the Ravens could get Lewis closer to full strength for those games by not playing him at Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the Ravens' other injury concern, Reed, should start tomorrow. He has been bothered by a neck injury but has practiced the past two days.

"Ed looks to be doing OK," Billick said.

Other than Lewis, everyone participated in practice yesterday. The only addition to the injury report was receiver Clarence Moore (abdomen), who is questionable.


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