OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Perhaps there is some hope for Ray Lewis playing on Sunday, after all.
At least that’s what the Ravens want the Cincinnati Bengals to believe.
The injured inside linebacker was listed as questionable for Sunday on the final injury report of the week after missing his third straight day of practice. Lewis reportedly traveled to Florida on Thursday to receive a second opinion on his injured toe and is expected to miss his first game since the final two contests of the 2007 season.
Lewis has made 57 straight starts for the Baltimore defense, often playing through nagging injuries as he has at several different points in his 16-year career.
“Ray is Ray, and you can’t count Ray out,” coach John Harbaugh said. “There could be reports out there and you guys can turn over some rocks and figure out and ask and think you’ve got something — and you might have something — but you might not because you’re talking about Ray. We’ll find out on Sunday, really.”
Reports indicate Lewis may be sidelined beyond Sunday’s game with AFC North rival Cincinnati, but Harbaugh said the injury is not a “serious, serious” thing that could potentially affect the ending of Lewis’ career as some have speculated. Of course, the Ravens listing Lewis as questionable means their opponent can’t just assume the future Hall of Fame linebacker won’t be on the field at M&T Bank Stadium.
“Ray may not go; he may go,” Harbaugh said. “The Bengals, they’ll have to prepare for him either way, so it really doesn’t matter. I think it’s something he could play with possibly.”
Also listed as questionable on the injury report was wide receiver Lee Evans, who is trying to get back on the field for the first time since the Ravens’ Week 2 loss in Tennessee. The 30-year-old veteran expressed optimism earlier in the week about his chances for playing against the Bengals, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said it could be another week or two before he’s ready to return.
Though Evans has practiced the last two weeks, he has only been a limited participant over the six practices. Harbaugh had previously stated Evans would have to show he’s fully healthy by participating in multiple practices before making his return to game action. The vague meaning of “limited” on the practice report makes it unclear just how much Evans has done in workouts, but he appeared to be running at full speed while catching passes during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday.
“I think he’s getting closer,” Harbaugh said. “He’s definitely getting closer. We’ll just have to see where it goes.”
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was also listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after practicing all week. The third-year linebacker practiced last week on a limited basis and did not do much, but he was a full participant in workouts on Thursday and Friday after missing the Ravens’ last four games with a hamstring injury.
“I’ve had a good week of practice,” said Ellerbe, who revealed he took plenty of reps with the first-team defense on Friday. “I didn’t feel too much pain. I feel like I’m ready to go.”
The former Georgia linebacker would be the likely replacement at Lewis’ inside linebacker spot, but Harbaugh maintained cautious optimism when asked how the young linebacker fared during practice this week. Veteran cornerback Chris Carr and rookie running back Anthony Allen experienced setbacks after trying to come back from hamstring issues of their own this season.
If Ellerbe is unable to play on Sunday, starter Jameel McClain would slide to Lewis’ “Mike” linebacker spot while veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo would assume McClain’s normal spot.
“He’s progressed well,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s another situation where we just have to see how it goes. You just don’t know. Hamstrings are very tricky. Other guys we’ve brought back a little early and they’ve re-injured them. It’s going to be something where we’re just going to have to see really on Sunday. I think he got through the practices pretty well, but until you open it up and feel right before the game that it’s not going to grab or pull, you really don’t know.”
The Bengals received their own bad news on Friday as it appears unlikely that rookie wide receiver A.J. Green after he was listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Green did not participate in any of the Bengals’ three practices this week.
OUT: RB Anthony Allen (thigh), DT Art Jones (head)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh), WR Lee Evans (ankle), LB Ray Lewis (foot)
DOUBTFUL: WR AJ Green (knee), TE Donald Lee (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring)
PROBABLE: CB Nate Clements (knee), C Kyle Cook (foot), S Chris Crocker (knee), DE Jonathan Fanene (illness), WR Andrew Hawkins (hamstring), CB Adam Jones (groin), RB Brian Leonard (knee), LB Dontay Moch (illness), DE Frostee Rucker (knee), S Gibril Wilson (ankle)