OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Less than 48 hours after declaring Ray Lewis’ season over, Ravens coach John Harbaugh left the door open Wednesday for the unlikeliest of returns from a complete triceps tear for the veteran linebacker.
Lewis was placed on injured reserve but was designated to return, a new rule that allows a team to place one player on IR with the option of that player returning to action eight weeks later. The designated player must remain on IR for six weeks and is then eligible to practice for two weeks before the player can be activated. Using these guidelines, the 37-year-old would not be eligible to return before the Ravens’ Week 15 game against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 16.
Scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday, Lewis faces a lengthy rehabilitation time that typically takes a minimum of four months. Even if the linebacker could shave the recovery time down to three months, that would only put him in a position to be able to play in the conference championship and Super Bowl XLVII.
“He will not count against our [53-man roster] for that period of time,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s a minimum of six weeks. I have no idea, we have no idea, whether that time frame has anything to do with the injury. Obviously, it’s a very serious injury, but there’s an opportunity and we’re going to keep the door open, and we’ll see where that goes moving forward. We really don’t know anything more than that.”
The Ravens might be using the designation as an incentive to keep Lewis at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills throughout the season. When the linebacker suffered a torn hamstring that ended his 2005 season prematurely, he essentially disappeared from the team, electing to rehab his injury in his home state of Florida.
It remains unknown if Lewis requested the Ravens to afford him the chance to return or the team was simply offering him a carrot to aid in his efforts to rehab. Harbaugh and several players expressed how much the team will benefit from his mental prowess, even if Lewis’ chances of a return appear to be akin to winning the lottery.
“Ray’s still with us, he’ll still be around,” said Harbaugh, who acknowledged it’s a matter of if Lewis returns, not when. “He’ll still be a part of what we’re doing, and I think that’s something we’ll be fine with.”
With Lewis being placed on IR, the Ravens promoted linebacker Josh Bynes from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. The Auburn product spent most of last season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster when Lewis missed four games with a toe injury in the second half of the season.
Bynes played in one game against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 24, 2011 as he was used on special teams. The 23-year-old linebacker missed nearly the entire preseason this summer with a chipped bone in his spine.
With Bynes and running back Bobby Rainey promoted to the 53-man roster to fill the spots left behind by Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb, the Ravens had two vacated spots on the practice squad, which were filled by linebacker Nigel Carr and cornerback Jordan Maybin. Both players were on the preseason roster.