Oct/18/12 08:58 AM Filed in: Ray Lewis
9:14PM EDT October 17. 2012 - OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is keeping a roster spot available in the unlikely case Ray Lewis can return for the postseason. The linebacker underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a torn right triceps muscle. Lewis goes on injured reserve with the new "designated to return" tag which enables a player to be re-activated after a minimum of six games.
The move seems more symbolic than realistic for a reeling Ravens defense that ranks 26th against the run and is coming off allowing two consecutive 200-plus rushing performances in wins against Kansas City and Dallas.
"Obviously, it's a very serious injury but there's an opportunity and we're going to keep the door open and we'll just see where that goes," Harbaugh said during his pre-practice news conference. "We really don't know any more than that."
Harbaugh said it's important to the team's psyche that Lewis, "the greatest leader in sports," have a chance to come back from an injury that usually requires five to six months to heal.
"Ray's still with us. He'll be around and be a part of what we're doing," Harbaugh said.
The feeling among his teammates is if anyone can make a return for a Super Bowl run, Lewis has the mental toughness and focus capable of doing it.
"Ray Lewis is the land shark. You've got to fear that guy. He's the greatest of all time," cornerback Jimmy Smith said.
"Will he come back next year? Nobody but Ray knows. But knowing Ray, he will definitely be back next season."
With cornerback Lardarius Webb lost for the season to a torn ACL and a meniscus tear inside his left knee, the Ravens did get some needed good news Wednesday when 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs returned to practice.
Suggs came off the physically unable to perform list after recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon suffered in the spring.
"We should temper our expectations a little bit," Harbaugh said. "He's coming off a very serious injury, an Achilles tear. And we'll just see how he does."
Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee can't envision a Peyton Manning-like scenario in which the Ravens move on from Lewis after this season and Lewis winds up resuming his future Hall of Fame career wearing another jersey.
"Hell, no,'' McPhee told USA TODAY Sports when asked if he could see Lewis playing elsewhere next season. "Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens.''
His contract runs through 2015. Lewis' salary-cap charge is $7.3 million next season, when he is due to make $5.4 million in base salary.
Even if Lewis can't defy the roughly six-month timetable medical experts place on a full recovery from a torn triceps surgical repair, McPhee doesn't see this as Lewis' last season with the Ravens. After 17 seasons, McPhee said the league should know by now never to count out Lewis, even if he is 37.
"I expect Ray back. I know how Ray is, how much he loves the game,'' McPhee said. "Yeah, he'll be back next year. Knowing Ray, he'll probably be back for the postseason.
"I hope he takes the time and makes his decision. He's one of the greats of all time. He's not just a father figure, a teacher, he pours his heart out when he plays and you want to do the same for him. "He's a real humble, down-to-earth guy.
"I wish him good luck in his recovery. And I hope he'll be back with us this (post)season.''