R. Lewis could be shut down for season

OWINGS MILLS -- With the Baltimore Ravens officially out of playoff contention and veteran middle linebacker Ray Lewis pondering his medical options for a torn hamstring, there's a strong possibility that he will not play again this season and surgery is an option.

Lewis, who suffered a tear in his right hamstring Oct. 23 against the Chicago Bears and has missed six consecutive games, remains in Miami after seeking second opinions from doctors and didn't attend the Ravens' 16-15 win Sunday over the Houston Texans.

A prognosis could be forthcoming as soon as today on the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Ravens coach Brian Billick made it clear Monday that the decision is primarily in Lewis' court, and that the team's 4-8 record and last-place status in the AFC North are major factors along with Lewis' future outlook at age 30.

"That's a decision for Ray," Billick said. "There are varying opinions whether you do a surgery on this. There are also prevailing opinions that say no. Obviously, if they choose that it would put him at additional risk long-term, if a surgery is required, it would do him for the rest of the season.

"We'd look at it probably differently if we were in the middle of a playoff hunt. Certainly as an organization given our situation we'd love to have Ray back, but we wouldn't want to do anything that jeopardizes his health. We'll support whatever he wants to do."

Billick emphasized that Lewis has always had a hamstring pull, not a thigh bruise.

Six weeks after suffering the injury -- a high hamstring injury that spread to the entire leg after aggravating it against Chicago after some doubt on whether he should play -- Lewis underwent another magnetic resonance imaging exam which revealed similar tearing as initially diagnosed.

"There are two schools of thought," Billick said. "Do you go ahead and do the surgery? Do you play through it? Do you stay off it altogether having gotten the strength back?

"I'll leave it to the medical people to decide where exactly they're going with that. It's been the hamstring all along."

In 2002, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection incurred a shoulder injury that required surgery and he was placed on injured reserve.

Lewis has been limited to six games this season and is the Ravens' second-leading tackler with 77 tackles. He has one sack and one forced fumble.

The Ravens have gone 2-4 during Lewis' extended convalescence as Tommy Polley has shifted to middle linebacker and leads the team with 93 tackles.

Meanwhile, defensive end Tony Weaver is potentially at risk to miss the rest of the season after a back injury flared up while he was working out last Thursday. While picking up a basketball following a weight-lifting session, Weaver hurt his back badly enough that he missed Sunday's game.

Depending on the severity of the back injury, the impending unrestricted free agent could miss the final four games.

"The worst one is if it is ‘acute,' which means it just happened, which could and I'll underline could, preempt him from the rest of the season," Billick said. "We'll have to wait for that to calm down."

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will probably be able to return from a hamstring injury to play against the Denver Broncos this week. Rookie Adam Terry struggled in pass protection in his NFL debut in Ogden's place.

Offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo was forced to play hurt with a sore knee because the Ravens were shorthanded.

Billick said he expects cornerback Chris McAlister (hamstring) and offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (thigh) to return to practice this week. Rookie linebacker Mike Smith is doubtful with a hamstring injury that was considered serious.

In other injury news, cornerback Zach Norton will need surgery on his shoulder and will be placed on injured reserve.

Along with Lewis and Weaver's situation, Norton's loss will prompt at least one corresponding roster move to address a lack of depth on defense and special teams. The Ravens have two defensive backs on the practice squad: Robb Butler and Duvol Thompson.

"Right now, it's anybody we can get up," said Billick, who noted that 99 snaps is far too many for linebacker Bart Scott, a defensive starter and special-teams ace. "Zach Norton is definitely one that we're having to address, the possibility of Tony Weaver, the possibility of Ray Lewis, there are a number of players we'll look at."


In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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