R. Lewis, Stokley's seasons shut down

Dire concern over how much further damage Baltimore Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis might suffer to his injured left shoulder prompted his decision to have it repaired next week. Ending their respective seasons, the Ravens placed both Lewis and receiver Brandon Stokley on injured reserve Tuesday afternoon. Lewis, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, will undergo surgery next week to fix a partial subluxation of the shoulder and a minor tear of his labrum.

A surgery date for dislocated bones in his left foot hasn't been set yet for Stokley, who sought a second opinion from another foot specialist. Traditionally, both of these injuries take four to six months to heal properly, which makes minicamp an outside possibility.

"You feel some emptiness because Ray is the leader of this football team," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Looking at 2003, it may be the best thing for us. It was draining on everybody as to whether he was going to play or not. Now, we know.

"I knew he wanted to play, but was he going to put himself in position to do something even more damaging because of his competitiveness?"

The shutdown ends a frustrating period in Lewis' career as he wavered back and forth on whether to continue his season after his shoulder came out of place while scrambling for a fumble on Oct. 6 against the Cleveland Browns.

Five weeks later, Lewis played in a loss to the Miami Dolphins and recorded a game-high 18 tackles with the aid of a harness.

However, soft-tissue damage to his left calf and ankle robbed him of his mobility, forced him out of Sunday's narrow victory over the Tennessee Titans and fueled his internal debate.

A series of magnetic resonance imaging exams and X-rays revealed the irregularity in the shoulder. Now, Lewis' immediate future includes a date with the surgeon's scalpel.

"Making the decision to have the surgery was difficult," Lewis said in a statement. "In my mind, I've gone back and forth. I wanted to put this team on my back and get them back to the playoffs, but that's not the best thing for me to do right now."

 Lewis kept following a prescribed rehabilitation schedule of rest, stretching, heat, ice and exercise, but there was no complete remedy.

"He busted his tail," trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "It looked like it was maybe a downhill battle, and we became smart about it before something else more serious happened."

Lewis' long-term health was the Ravens' primary concern, not a slippery path to a postseason that likely required perfection in the final five games.

"This is the right decision," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "In July, when he's ready for the start of training camp, we'll all be pleased that he had the surgery in early December rather than later."

Despite missing six games, Lewis still ranks second on the team in tackles to inside linebacker Edgerton Hartwell with 87 tackles along with two interceptions, three pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

"This is so frustrating," Lewis said. "I kept delaying, hoping to find a way, but it didn't respond the way I hoped it would, or the way the trainers and doctors thought it might."

Veteran Bernardo Harris will keep playing in Lewis' place with undrafted rookie Bart Scott working in reserve. Hartwell and Harris have combined for 158 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

"The position is playing well for us, which is a key for us in the 3-4 where you need to be strong right down the middle," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "We've been preparing each week as if Ray was not playing. The difference is now he's definitely out.

"Ray's presence is still felt around here even if he's not playing. He's great with the young guys and has taught them a tremendous amount."

Meanwhile, the Ravens shelved Stokley because of a rare sprain that caused a dislocation of the connective bones of his left foot. Tessendorf said a Cincinnati Bengals linebacker stepped on Stokley's foot when he was trying to cut.

Tessendorf said the standard procedure is to insert a screw for three months to let the ligaments mend. Stokley has caught 24 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns.

"It needs to be fixed," Tessendorf said. "It's not an emergency, but probably the sooner the better."

NOTES: The Ravens signed second-year receiver Milton Wynn to the active roster. Wynn, a 6-foot-3, 207-pounder drafted in the fourth round last year by the St. Louis Rams, was signed off of the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad. … Defensive end Michael McCrary (knee) visited a specialist Tuesday. Billick said Monday that the time for a final decision to be made on the pass rusher is rapidly approaching. Retirement or injured reserve are the likely options for McCrary, who has a long history of knee problems.


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