Ravens need to be patient with Ray Lewis

The Baltimore Ravens don't need to rush linebacker Ray Lewis back into the lineup. Baltimore has shown it can beat good teams without him --the Bengals and 49ers -- and it needs Lewis' leadership more in the playoffs than in December.

There's no sense of urgency to bring back the 36-year-old linebacker from a toe injury because the Ravens don't face a top-10 rusher in their final five games. Plus, his top backup, Dannell Ellerbe, is expected to return this week after missing Thursday with a groin injury.

Without Lewis and Ellerbe, the Ravens still held San Francisco's Frank Gore to 39 yards rushing Thanksgiving night. Behind Terrell Suggs' strong effort, the Ravens' intensity on defense was as strong as the times when Lewis is on the field.

At his Monday news conference, coach John Harbaugh indicated Lewis is "probably the guy that's furthest away" among the team's injured players.

Harbaugh didn't rule out Lewis and said he is "hopeful" that the team's all-time leading tackler will play Sunday at Cleveland. "Ray has a sprained toe, turf toe kind of thing, so those are a little more unpredictable," Harbaugh told reporters at Owings Mills, Md. "I'm hopeful. I've used that word before. I think he's got a real good chance [of playing Sunday] but we'll just have to see how it goes."

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