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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele discussed his chronic back problem at length prior to the bye week and it appears his 2013 season is now over.
Coach John Harbaugh announced after Friday’s practice that the second-year offensive linemen would not play against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and will likely undergo season-ending back surgery to have a disc problem corrected. Osemele’s back appeared to have worsened earlier in the week and his chances of playing the rest of the year are remote, according to the head coach.
Before officially being ruled out on Friday afternoon, Osemele had made 23 straight starts and hadn’t missed a game in his young career.
“There are some changes in his back that we discovered this week,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not going to play in this game. Going forward, I think the chances of him playing the rest of the year probably are pretty slim. There’s a good chance he’s going to get surgery here real soon. The back was just getting a little worse and a little worse as we went. We went back in and looked at it, and there’s some things that need to get taken care of there.”
Osemele practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday before being sidelined on Thursday, raising red flags regarding the status of his back. The 2012 second-round pick told reporters during the bye week that he’s dealt with the back injury since his rookie year and it had gotten worse this season, acknowledging that he would need to have surgery.
Backup center A.Q. Shipley will start at left guard against the Browns and replaced Osemele when back spasms sidelined him against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 6. Harbaugh said 2011 third-round pick Jah Reid and rookie Rick Wagner will also be in the mix at the position.
“He’s played very well when he’s been in there,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a football player. He’s always played well whenever he plays. And there are other guys that will be in the mix. The offensive line is developing very well, and I’m excited to see how they play going forward. We’ll actually be better, I think, with a healthier player.”
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds, Shipley is four inches shorter and 21 pounds lighter than Osemele, giving the Ravens undersized players at both the center and left guard positions. Shipley began practicing more extensively at left guard following Osemele’s spasms in Miami and expressed confidence that he will be able to handle a new position.
Shipley has never started an NFL game at left guard and he made five starts at center for the Indianapolis Colts last season before he was dealt to the Ravens this offseason for a conditional seventh-round pick.
“I’ve been ready. I’ve been preparing as a starter for something like this,” Shipley said. “That’s the nature of this business, so it’s ‘next man up.’ [Guard] is a little easier in terms of the mental aspect. I just have to listen to the center now. It’s very similar to center; I’ve just got a little more space to deal with now.”
Meanwhile, Reid has been inactive for all but one game this season, but the third-year lineman has more experience at the position. After former Ravens Ramon Harewood and Bobbie Williams were given opportunities at left guard, Reid started seven games before a toe injury ended his 2012 season and paved the way for Osemele to move from right tackle to left guard for the postseason.
Other than Osemele, the Ravens appear to be in good shape from a health standpoint as all other members of the 53-man roster were present and working during Friday’s practice.
Veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game and practiced on a limited basis all week. Five others were listed as probable, including right tackle Michael Oher (ankle) and linebacker Josh Bynes (finger).
For the Browns, starting running back Willis McGahee (knee) was a full participant on Friday and is listed as probable to play against his former team.
Scott Green will be the referee for Sunday’s game in Cleveland. Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-40s with a 30 percent chance of rain but most of the precipitation coming in the morning.
Here is the final injury report of the week:
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back/knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
PROBABLE: LB Josh Bynes (finger/thigh), DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot), T Michael Oher (ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Quentin Groves (ankle), DL Billy Winn (Quad)
PROBABLE: DL Desmond Bryant (thumb), RB Willis McGahee (knee), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ribs), DB Chris Owens (finger), LB Jabaal Sheard (wrist)