The most immediate beneficiary of the season-ending right triceps injury to inside linebacker Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe – who is expected to make his first start of the season against the Houston Texans this Sunday – might feel inclined to try to do more. But Ellerbe said he’s under no pressure to be the next Lewis.
“I’m going to play the way I’ve been playing,” he said Thursday. “I’m not trying to fill the shoes of Ray Lewis. I’m not going to be able to do that. He’s the greatest linebacker to ever play the game. So I’m just going to go out there and play my game and help us win.”
Assuming a starting role after an injury to Lewis is not a new experience for Ellerbe. He started three of the four games that Lewis sat out last season due to a painful turf toe injury and finished with 11 tackles.
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That playing time proved invaluable, according to Ellerbe.
“Any time you’re out there without a guy like Ray Lewis, you’ve got to take on accountability more for yourself and you can’t rely on him,” he said. “You’ve got to know what’s going on, everything. It’s a challenge, and I’m up for it. I did it before, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Ellerbe will join Jameel McClain as the starters on the inside, forming a linebacking corps that features three undrafted players in McClain, Ellerbe and outside linebacker Albert McClellan. Ellerbe said he didn’t think it would take terribly wrong for him to develop a rapport with McClain.
“I feel like we’ve got good chemistry,” Ellerbe said. “We did it last year, and I felt like we played good. We held a couple ball carriers below their yardage. So I think we’ll be alright. We’ve got a great chemistry.”