At approximately 1 p.m. on Sunday,
might not shimmy his way out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium.
There is a chance a toe injury could sideline Lewis, meaning someone else will have to captain the
’ defense, sing the national anthem, conduct the marching band, sell cotton candy and foam fingers, vacuum the place, and turn off the lights when everyone leaves.
That might be a slight exaggeration of the linebacker’s responsibilities on game day, but Lewis has been the scowling, war-paint-wearing face of everything Baltimore football for the past 16 years.
It’s hard to imagine the Ravens playing without him, but they have done so 30 times in their history. And should a wonky toe sideline Lewis — he will be a game-time decision Sunday — the Ravens will still run out of the tunnel for their critical game against the 6-3
“If he plays, that's going to be great for us,” Ravens linebacker
said Friday. “But if he doesn't, we're going to miss him. But I think we'll be fine.”
Lewis was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report, which by the
’s definition means there is a 50/50 chance he will play. Ravens coach
stressed to reporters that you can never rule Lewis out. But he is in danger of missing his first game in more than three years, a streak of 57 straight regular-season games that dates back to the 2008 season opener.
Given the way Lewis hands out hard hits with reckless abandon, his durability — especially in the twilight of his career — is pretty remarkable. While fending off questions of Lewis’ availability on Friday, Harbaugh marveled about the tenacity and toughness of the future Hall of Famer, who the coach says has played with shredded hamstrings and banged out push-ups on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder to convince the training staff to let him return to active duty.
“That’s Ray Lewis,” Harbaugh said.
But the player
once hailed as “God’s Linebacker” is mortal. He has twice been put on injured reserve in his career. A shoulder injury limited him to five games in 2002, and he played in six games in the 2005 season before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn hamstring. In five other seasons, Lewis lost games to injury, though it was never more than two.
In those 30 games without Lewis, the Ravens are 14-16. Perhaps it is coincidence, but 2006 is the only season in which Lewis missed at least one game that the Ravens made the playoffs.
The last time Lewis watched from the sidelines in street clothes,
and Nick Greisen were the inside linebackers as the Ravens closed the 2007 season with a 27-21 win over the
. If Lewis is inactive Sunday,
— three players who weren’t selected in the
— will man the middle.