The Ravens activated the veteran linebacker from the injured reserve with a designation to return list on Wednesday, a procedural move that makes him eligible to play in the opening round of the playoffs next week against either the Bengals or Indianapolis Colts.
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Ravens coach John Harbaugh reiterated that Lewis, who hasn’t played since tearing his right triceps muscle in the Ravens’ Week 6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, wouldn’t face the Bengals. However, several of Lewis’ teammates expressed hope that the 17-year linebacker will be ready for the start of the playoffs.
“I have high hopes. I know that he’s going to be out there,” said Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. “It’s Ray Lewis. He’s not going to sit down. If he feels like he can go, he’s going to go.”
Lewis, 37, returned to practice on Dec. 5, meaning that in order to be eligible for the playoffs, the Ravens had to add him to the active roster by today. NFL rules stipulate that players on injured reserve with a designation to return can practice for a period not exceeding 21 days before they have to be activated to the 53-man roster or put on season-ending injured reserve.
Lewis was eligible to return to game action two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos. However, the Ravens have decided to play it safe with the veteran linebacker, who has some atrophy in his right arm after having the surgery on Oct. 17. Lewis was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
“Knowing Ray Lewis, I’ll just be honest: he could have played last week,” said Ravens running back Ray Rice. “That’s just the Ray Lewis I know. His gut instinct told him to not play but he also felt firmly that if we just get him to the playoffs, that we were going to be OK. Obviously, that takes a lot, it wasn’t easy. He’s our leader, he’s our guy. But we did our job. Our job was to get him to the playoffs [and] that’s where we’re at. Right now, we know for a fact that some time in the playoffs, we’ll have Ray Lewis.”
Lewis has missed nine straight games and the Ravens are 5-4 during that stretch.