An already banged-up Ravens defense won’t be getting middle linebacker Ray Lewis back for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.
The Ravens had until 4 p.m. today to take Lewis off of injured reserve with a designation to return, but they made the decision not to activate him, meaning that the 37-year-old won’t be eligible to play Sunday against Peyton Manning and company.
Lewis hasn’t played since he tore his right triceps in the Ravens’ 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 14. Tomorrow marked the first game he was eligible to return but the Ravens have decided to give him at least another week. The Ravens (9-4) play the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Initially feared to be out for the season, Lewis returned to practice Dec. 5. He was not on the field for the portion of practice open to the media this past Wednesday, but he did practice the past two days on a limited basis. Per league rules, Lewis, who has not spoken to reporters since the Week 6 injury, is able to practice for 21 days before the Ravens either have to activate him or revert him back to injured reserve.
His absence Sunday further exposes an already depleted linebacker group. Inside linebacker Jameel McClain was declared out for the game on Wednesday because of a neck injury. Dannell Ellerbe, who stepped in and started next to McClain after Lewis went out, has missed the past two games with an ankle injury and he’s questionable for tomorrow.
That could force second-year linebacker Josh Bynes, an undrafted free agent who has never started a game in his career, to wear the headset in his helmet and relay defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ calls to the rest of the defense. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, one of the Ravens’ top special teams players, will also play a prominent role on defense.
If Ellerbe and safety Bernard Pollard don’t play and Pollard hasn’t practiced all week with a chest injury, the Ravens will be without four of their top five tacklers against the Broncos.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged on Friday that his roster decisions on Sunday will be difficult because so many players are banged up and considered game-time decisions.
“Will we have enough healthy guys to get to 46? That’s a consideration,” Harbaugh said. “What you are talking about will come down to one or two guys at the end that we will have to make a decision [on].”
Tight end Ed Dickson (knee) is doubtful and expected to miss his third straight game. Fullback Vonta Leach (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps), defensive end Pernell McPhee (thigh/groin), defensive tackle Arthur Jones, cornerback Jimmy Smith (abdomen) and Pollard are all questionable.