Ray Lewis plays it safe with toe troubles

BALTIMORE - Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis was scratched for the second consecutive game due to a painful toe injury.

It marks the second game in a row that Lewis was deactivated after snapping his 57-game consecutive streak Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Lewis attempted to play after being extremely limited in practice all week, but ultimately the toe didn't respond well enough to risk playing him this early in his recovery from an injury suffered against the Seattle Seahawks.

''Can I play with it? Absolutely," Lewis said during an NFL Network interview before the Ravens' 16-6 win last night. "There's a large amount of pain there, but I think it's more importantly about the injury. Do I go and reinjure it on a very short week and fight it the entire rest of the season instead of just going ahead and get through this stretch right now."

Lewis denied rumors that the injury could sideline him for the remainder of the season or cause the end of his career, saying: "I think all of those reports are terrible.''

The Capital first reported that Lewis would definitely miss one game and possibly additional games with a worst-case scenario of him being sidelined for four games.

''Coach (John Harbaugh) walked up to me and we looked at each other and he said, 'The best thing to probably do is just sit this one out,' " Lewis said. "We made the decision based on we have a long rest period coming up after this. So, it gives me a real opportunity to come back totally 100 percent."

With inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe out with lingering hamstring and groin injuries aggravated against the Bengals, the Ravens started a pair of former undrafted free agents at inside linebacker in Jameel McClain and Albert McClellan.

McClain finished with eight tackles, tying safety Bernard Pollard for the team lead. And McClellan had four tackles in his first NFL start.

''I felt good, I just didn't want to be too fast to the ball," McClellan said. "That was my main problem all week and I felt like I played really good. Ray told me what he saw on film. He's more experienced at watching film and picking up tendencies. He let me know what he saw and to be patient. Patience is a virtue. "It's a huge night, another milestone personally, first start as an NFL player. I wasn't that nervous. I'm kind of mad that I was close to getting a sack and missed that opportunity, I missed a tackle for a loss. I was hustling."

They used special team ace Brendon Ayanbadejo on third downs.

Lewis has extra time to recover since the Ravens don't play again until their Dec. 4 game at the Cleveland Browns.

If the Ravens opt to sit Lewis against Cleveland, they could try to get him back on the field Dec. 11 against the Indianapolis Colts or Dec. 18 at the San Diego Chargers.

''The team is well-prepared," Lewis said. "We have three big conference games coming up."

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