As Ray Lewis walked onto the practice field in uniform Wednesday for the first time in seven weeks, his long-time Ravens' teammate, Terrell Suggs, remained inside the team facility. Suggs was pondering when he'll be able to return to the field and how effective he'll be when he does.
Lewis and Suggs have played together for nine seasons, but they've yet to be on the field at the same time this season. Suggs' surprisingly quick return in Week 7 from offseason Achilles' surgery coincided with the first of at least seven games Lewis will miss with a torn right triceps.
Now, Lewis is close to a return — he is eligible to play in the Dec. 16 game against the Denver Broncos and all indications are that he'll be ready by then — and Suggs is again dealing with a significant injury, a torn right biceps that leaves his playing status for Sunday's key game against the Washington Redskins and beyond in doubt.
"The creed is, 'If you can breathe, then you can play,'" said Suggs, who hurt his arm while trying to make a tackle on Isaac Redman in the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. "We just got to check it out. We got to see how it holds up throughout the week. I'll definitely be a game-time decision on Sunday. My [biggest] concern is would I help or hinder the team by playing? I don't want to be out there and can't make a play because I'm unhealthy and I don't have a full biceps."
Suggs, an outside linebacker who has 19 tackles and two sacks in six games this season, has spent the past couple of days soliciting medical opinions about how plausible it would be for him to continue to play through the pain. Suggs said one option that he hasn't even entertained is shutting it down for the rest of the season, giving both his arm and Achilles even more time to heal.
"That's not an option for me," Suggs said. "I haven't ruled [playing on Sunday] out of my mind yet but I think definitely I will continue to line up at some point this season. It all depends on when it starts to get better and how much I can really do on it. You just have to find your limit. You have to find out what you can do and what you can't do. Right now, I could tell you I feel good and I'm definitely playing. But it's not always the case on Sunday."
Unlike Lewis, Suggs didn't practice Wednesday and it would be surprising if he did much of anything this week. Suggs said that he'll spend the week trying to decide whether there is anything, like perhaps wearing a shoulder harness, that would make his situation better.
"I think any time you have an injury and you play with it, you risk making it worse," Suggs said. "But if I do play, that won't be a concern on my mind. We have a job to do and we have to get a win."
Asked about potentially resting up for the playoffs and sitting out the final three or four games of the regular season, Suggs said, "I don't give myself that kind of time frame. I don't want to miss any games. Let's just start with Week 1. Hopefully, I can play. I really believe if everything [works] out with how I am feeling and we do a good job throughout the week, I will be lining up. If not, then I miss the Washington game and hopefully I can be back for the Denver one."
Quarterback Joe Flacco said that he felt for Suggs because of how hard the linebacker worked to return from Achilles' surgery and what was initially believed to be a season-ending injury. Defensive tackles Arthur Jones and Terrence Cody both raved about Suggs' toughness and his commitment to the team, while safety Ed Reed expressed confidence that his teammate will make the right decision for both his team and himself.
"At this point of the year, surgery definitely takes you out of the season," Reed said. "So it won't surprise me if he does [try to play], but I don't think he would make that decision if he couldn't be effective."
Reed did say that the return of Lewis, the 13-time Pro Bowl selection who has played 17 seasons in the NFL, would soften the blow of Suggs' potential loss.
"Ray's the heart of this organization," Reed said. "If he can come back after we lose Suggs, it would just be like rotating guys in. It would be awesome."
Lewis' injury was also initially believed to be season-ending and the Ravens put him on injured reserve with a designation to return. Lewis, 37, told teammates all along that he would return this season and now he's on the cusp of doing just that.
With about 10 photographers waiting for his arrival, Lewis walked out to the practice field with running back Ray Rice. Rice yelled, "Sugar's back," a reference to one of Lewis' nicknames, and then broke out into the linebacker's patented entrance dance.
"I tease him all the time about him being a modern day Superman, but there's only one person that could have pulled off what he's doing," Rice said. "He's not doing it for his name to be in the paper. He's doing it solely because he loves the organization, loves his guys and loves being at war with us. He's our general. As he goes, we go."
Lewis went directly to the JUGS machine to catch some passes and then he moved onto another field to play catch with fellow linebacker Jameel McClain and stretch. Lewis hasn't spoken to the media since tearing his triceps on Oct. 14 against the Dallas Cowboys, but he did release a statement Wednesday.
"I'm making progress and will practice some today," Lewis said. "But, the story shouldn't be about me right now. We're playing the Redskins Sunday, and I am not eligible to play. If I can help prepare my team in some way for that game, I will. When I know I will play in a game, or when I play in a game, I will say more then."
Baltimore Sun staff writer Edward Lee contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times