With ankle sprain to blame, sideline beckons R. Lewis Linebacker intends to play despite missing workout


Middle linebacker Ray Lewis provided an unusual sight at yesterday's practice. One day after spraining his left ankle, Lewis missed his first workout of the regular season.

Although rookie Tyrus McCloud replaced him yesterday, the veteran left no doubt about his availability for tomorrow's game against the Washington Redskins.

"It will be all right," said Lewis, who leads the team with 89 tackles. "The only thing that would hold me back is if this thing was broken. Even then, I'd just put a cast on it and get out there."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said he expects Lewis to start.

"The X-rays showed no breaks, and there's no swelling, so we feel good about Ray," Marchibroda said.

McCloud said: "We really need Ray. He's a soldier and he'll be ready to play."

A three-game losing streak is enough to get the attention of most players. And the way the Ravens have been pushed around lately on the line of scrimmage -- they surrendered a combined 362 rushing yards in back-to-back losses at home to Pittsburgh and Miami -- has added even more urgency to tomorrow's game.

With road games against the much-improved Jets and the always-tough-at-home Steelers up next, the Ravens are staring at a pivotal contest.

"If we have any pride as players, we'll bounce back," quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. "We'll be alone now. Everybody will second-guess us, tell us what's wrong. We need some toughness right now. We can come back. We'll find out who the fighters are on this team."

Marchibroda said: "We've dug ourselves a little hole. It's not that big yet. We're not in dire straits yet. But with each game we lose, the hole becomes a little tougher to get out of."

Incidentally, the Ravens are beginning their second stretch of three consecutive road games. They are the only NFL team to face that task in 1997. They will conclude the regular season with four of their last six games at home. They are 1-3 at Memorial Stadium.

Low on pressure

Just as running and passing go hand in hand in an effective offense, the same principle applies to defense. Not coincidentally, the Ravens' inability to stop the run lately has affected their ability to pressure the quarterback.

During their opening four games, when they were neutralizing opponents' ground games, they registered 11 sacks. Over their three-game losing streak, as their run defense has sagged, they have had fewer chances to get to the quarterback. That helps explain why they have only three sacks over that span.

Linebacker Peter Boulware continues to lead the team with four sacks, but he has not recorded one since the Ravens' last victory -- a 36-10 blowout of Tennessee on Sept. 21. That day, the Ravens took an early lead, held running back Eddie George to 40 yards and spent the day harassing quarterback Steve McNair.


Rookie weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper has won back his starting job, although Marchibroda said he also plans to play rookie Cornell Brown a lot tomorrow. Brown started last week, before giving way to Sharper after the first quarter. Tight end Eric Green, who twisted an ankle near the end of Thursday's practice, did not practice yesterday. He is expected to play against the Redskins. Rookie defensive tackle Leland Taylor and rookie running back Priest Holmes will be inactive tomorrow. This week will mark the third straight game in which the Ravens have faced an opponent that includes a former player from the Baltimore Stallions, the city's Canadian Football League team in 1994 and 1995. Washington left offensive tackle Shar Pourdanesh, the CFL Lineman of the Year in 1994, will start for the Redskins; Miami linebacker O.J. Brigance and Pittsburgh punter Josh Miller are the other former Stallions. Nine NFL teams have not amassed as much receiving yardage as the Ravens' trio of Michael Jackson, Derrick Alexander and Jermaine Lewis. They have combined on 94 catches for 1,352 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Pub Date: 10/25/97

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