The Ravens are prepared to go into Sunday’s AFC North showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals without their emotional leader and top tackler.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, 36, missed a third straight day of practice today with a toe injury that he sustained in last Sunday’s 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and at least at this point, it appears that he won’t play Sunday. But Ravens officials have learned not to rule Lewis out.
UPDATE: Lewis is listed as questionable for the game on the Ravens' injury report.
“Ray is Ray. You can’t count Ray out,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “There could be reports out there and you guys could turn over some rocks and figure out and ask, and think you have something, and you might have something. But you might not. We’re talking about Ray. We’ll find out on Sunday really.”
Harbaugh said that Lewis’ injury, which was diagnosed after an appointment with a foot specialist yesterday, is not a “serious, serious thing” and is something that he could possibly play through.
Lewis, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, has not missed a start since being sidelined for the last two games of the 2007 regular season. He has started 57 consecutive regular-season games.
“Ray has had shoulders dislocated and he’s done 35 push-ups on the sidelines to prove that he can go,” Harbaugh said. "He’s had hamstrings that have torn off the bone because he went ahead [and played] when he should have been gone. I’ve been updated on some of his history. That’s Ray Lewis. The injury is not any kind of serious, serious thing. I think I saw a report that it was career threatening this morning. No, it’s not. Ray may not go, he may go. The Bengals will have to prepare for him either way so it really doesn’t matter.”
Lewis has a team-leading 68 tackles to go along with two sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles.
Brendon Ayanbadejo, a Pro-Bowl selection on special teams who has been in on 12 tackles and a half sack this season, is listed next at middle linebacker on the Ravens’ depth chart.
The Ravens also could move inside linebacker Jameel McClain to the middle or use Dannell Ellerbe in Lewis’ spot. Ellerbe has been inactive in four straight games and in five of the past six with a hamstring injury.
However, he was a full participant the past two games. Ellerbe has started four games over the past three seasons.
"I'm always ready. I had a good week of practice today. I feel ready to go," Ellerbe said. "I took a lot of reps. It didn't feel strange. I'm just happy to get back out there. I just go out there and show what I've always been showing that I'm able to play in the league and play for the Ravens."
Harbaugh said that he is confident with the team's linebacker depth.
“We are very confident in our linebackers and we’re very confident in our defense,” Harbaugh said. “You go out there as a defense is what you do. We’ve had plenty of injuries all year. We’ve had lots of guys hurt throughout the course of the year and we’ll play with the guys that we have. We have a very good group, we have a very good defense and we’ll play well.”