OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In a scene reminiscent of a cheesy sports movie, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis returned to the practice field as his teammates playfully provided a slow clap to recognize their defensive leader after a four-game absence.
Lewis wore his No. 9 practice jersey — a tribute to the deceased Steve McNair — and smiled at his teammates’ response as he stepped foot on the outdoor practice field for the first time since sustaining a turf toe injury in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 13. The 36-year-old linebacker had not taken part in practice since being a limited participant the week of the 49ers game on Thanksgiving night, a shortened week that featured nothing more than glorified walk-throughs.
Prior to practice, coach John Harbaugh said Lewis would not necessarily require practice time before returning to game action, but his comments were all for naught as Lewis returned to the practice field on Wednesday.
“Ray is different probably than most guys, so I think Ray could get out there and play without practicing,” said Harbaugh. “If he didn’t practice, he could play on Sunday.”
However, the news was not as good on cornerback Lardarius Webb (toe), who was absent for the portion of practice open to the media. Webb was seen in the locker room wearing a walking boot on his left foot and spoke briefly with reporters regarding his status for Sunday’s game in San Diego.
“I’m doing everything I can do to get back on the field,” Webb said. “I’m going to treatment right now. I hope not [to miss the game]. I don’t want to. It would hurt me if I’m on the sidelines and somebody else is playing. The last time I did that was my rookie year when I had an ACL [injury] and I couldn’t get back on the field. This isn’t an ACL. It’s really going to take a lot to keep me off the field right now.”
Cornerback Chris Carr returned to the practice field after being sidelined with a back injury for the Ravens’ last three games. Not only would Carr provide a boost to the team’s depth at cornerback, but he would be a popular candidate to replace Webb at punt returner should the third-year cornerback miss Sunday’s game.
Kicker Billy Cundiff (left calf), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (undisclosed), and defensive end Cory Redding (undisclosed) were also absent from the field during the open portion of practice. Center Matt Birk (shoulder) and left guard Ben Grubbs (toe) were present without helmets and pads and did not appear to be working during Wednesday’s practice.
Harbaugh said on Monday he planned to rest some veteran players during practice this week, which might explain the absence of Ngata and Redding. Birk and Grubbs missed practice time last week before being listed on the final injury report as probable and playing against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.