Wearing a gray sweatsuit and a beige baseball cap, Ravens injured linebacker Ray Lewis walked onto the practice field Friday next to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and fired a couple of playful jabs into the air.
Lewis’ surprise visit — his first since sustaining what was believed to be a season-ending torn right triceps muscle during the Ravens’ Week Six victory over the Dallas Cowboys — energized teammates who believe that they haven’t seen the last of the linebacker this season.
“It's great to see the leader, the general of your army, out there,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “He let us know he's on pace to come back. If we handle business, he'll be back in a Ravens uniform this year. We have to do our part though.”
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Lewis, 37, was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return on Oct. 17, the same day he underwent surgery to repair the tear. The 13-time Pro Bowl selection hasn’t commented publicly about the injury or whether he plans to return for an 18th NFL season, but he released a statement through the Ravens on Friday that said his focus remains on returning this year.
“It’s truly great to be back with my teammates. I’ve really missed these guys and the feel of being around the team and in the locker room,” said Lewis, who led the team with 57 tackles at the time of his injury. “I am focused on rehabbing and getting my arm and body as strong as they can be. I will speak in person when I know a little more about my progress. I’m working hard and looking forward to coming back and helping this team. But right now, the focus should be on the guys playing, and I’ll be the biggest cheerleader I can be for them.”
When Lewis arrived to the practice field, he had a long conversation with second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith and then he hugged his replacement, linebacker Jameel McClain. He then wandered over to the middle of the field for an extended chat with Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who admitted that he was surprised to see him.
“All of a sudden I looked back and there was Ray Lewis. It’s good to have him back around,” said Harbaugh, who declined to update Lewis’ status. “That’s his thing. There’s no way for us to know or not about how far along he is, about how he’s doing. We’ll just have to see how it goes here in all honesty and see how he does.”
The Ravens (6-2) closed their final full practice before Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders with Lewis going to the center of the huddle and giving the team a pep talk, which Harbaugh called inspirational.
“Obviously, we understand that he was away doing his thing, getting surgery and things like that. But it’s good to have him around,” said right guard Marshal Yanda. “He’s the leader of this team. Even though he’s not playing, he’s still a leader off the field as well.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens had nearly everyone at practice Friday participating in some capacity. The lone exception is defensive end Pernell McPhee who hasn't practiced in the past two weeks because of a thigh injury. McPhee, who missed last week's game against the Cleveland Browns, is unlikely to play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Offensive guards Bobbie Williams (ankle) and Marshal Yanda (knee) made their first appearance at practice this week. Both have said that they are planning to play Sunday. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shoulder) also was practicing for the first time this week.