OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite a few extra days of rest following a dominating defensive performance in a 16-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night, the Ravens still find themselves guessing whether emotional leader Ray Lewis will be back on the field against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The 36-year-old linebacker missed his second straight game with a toe injury he suffered in the loss to Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago. In Lewis’ absence, the Ravens recorded a franchise-record nine sacks in limiting the 49ers to just six points on Thanksgiving night.
Coach John Harbaugh took a familiar stance in discussing Lewis’ status for Sunday, but he specified the veteran’s injury for the first time publicly, confirming previous reports and projecting an unclear timetable for the All Pro’s return.
“Ray has a sprained toe, turf toe kind of a thing, so those are a little more unpredictable,” Harbaugh said. “I am hopeful. I have used that word before. I think he has a real good chance [to play on Sunday], but we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
With fellow inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe also inactive on Thursday as he continues to deal with hamstring and groin injuries that have plagued him for the better part of two months, second-year undrafted free agent Albert McClellan made his first career start next to Jameel McClain on the inside. He finished with four tackles against San Francisco and split time with Brendon Ayanbadejo at the position.
McClellan also filled in at the spot in the second half of the Ravens’ 31-24 victory over the Bengals in Week 11 when Ellerbe left the game in the second half.
“I think Albert [McClellan] played very solidly,” said Harbaugh, who revealed the second-year linebacker had only begun focusing on inside linebacker over the last six or seven weeks. “That was something that really we had no idea how he was going to play, in all honesty. He’s never really played inside linebacker ever in his career. At Marshall, he moved around and played different positions. He was outside backer, inside backer, nose guard, defensive tackle – he played it all there. I think it shows you what kind of a football player he is.”
With the Ravens receiving a few days to recuperate after playing two games in five days last week, Harbaugh is hopeful his team can get healthy in time for a critical game against an AFC North opponent. Lewis will remain the biggest mystery in terms of a possible return for Sunday, but the Ravens envision Ellerbe and cornerback Chris Carr — suffering from a back ailment — making their respective returns in Cleveland.
“The rest part of it is big,” Harbaugh said. “The fact that all those guys are going to get an extra three or four days of rest and more time to recover, because it is kind of a cumulative process in terms of recovery. Ray [Lewis] is probably the guy that is the furthest away, if you are going to look at all the guys, but then again, you never know. [Dannell] Ellerbe looks good. Chris Carr looks good. Most all those guys look good coming into Monday.”
Defensive tackle Arthur Jones continues to be sidelined after suffering a concussion against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 13. The second-year lineman declined interviews with reporters in the locker room on Monday, revealing he had yet to be cleared to return to action.
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