Peter Boulware may not start for the Ravens on Sunday in Cleveland.
It won't be a coach's decision, though. It's one that rests on the player's right shoulder.
Boulware has struggled this season with his ailing shoulder, and Ravens coach Brian Billick has given a challenge to his two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker.
In order for Boulware to start against the Browns, he needs to voice to the coaching staff this week that he can deliver a physical, all-out performance.
"It depends on Peter and how the shoulder feels," Billick said. "If he feels there is any limitation in it physically, then we have to take that in account. But clearly, he has to, for his sense of mind, know that he can do the things he needs to do.
"It's just a matter of how he practices on our two padded days and how he feels with it. Is he comfortable with it? Does he feel like he's using it more? I have no doubt he will. I really think it's a matter of game repetitions and getting a game sense about you."
Boulware did not return phone calls last night, but said earlier in the day that his starting status was never mentioned to him Monday. If he does not start, Billick indicated Cornell Brown or Anthony Davis, both of whom played strong-side linebacker Sunday, would move up.
"They talked to me about game stuff and technique," said Boulware, who has started 46 of the Ravens' past 52 games. "That's about it."
In Sunday's 37-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Boulware was shut out, too. In 30 plays, he failed to record a tackle.
In four games this season, he has 10 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He has the second-fewest stops among starters, ranking above only defensive tackle Sam Adams, whose main job is to set up tacklers.
Boulware has had trouble shaking bad habits stemming from last year, when he played with basically one arm. In early February, he underwent arthroscopic surgery days after playing in the Pro Bowl, but his rehabilitation was slowed by biceps tendinitis.
He worked off to the side during training camp and logged six plays the entire preseason. So, the Ravens consider the first four games as Boulware's preseason and now expect a regular-season effort Sunday.
"It's just a matter of wanting to make sure he's physically sound," Billick said. "Is there something that we have to be aware of? He doesn't feel like there is. The trainers don't feel like there is.
"So, now as a coach, it's a matter of putting him in a position that says: 'OK, we have had the adjustment period. Now, it's time to train yourself to use your arm more.' "
When not rushing the passer, Boulware has reactively protected his right shoulder, pulling his arm in at times. That has led to several missed tackles because his body is still trained to reach across with his left arm rather than attack with his right.
One suggestion involves extra repetitions after practice.
"If he doesn't use it, we have to help him," Billick said. "Do you need more rehab or put you more in physical situations in practice? Do we need to get you one-on-one with the tight ends and let you bang around a little bit after practice to get you in a comfort zone?
"So it's a matter of trying to provide an environment where he can build that confidence in that shoulder.
"Once he has that state of mind that he's comfortable with it and he feels like it's good and strong, then we're in good shape. If he feels like there's still a little limitation there or he's still having to work through it, we don't want to put him in a situation where he's not ready to confidently go in there and compete."
NOTES: Game balls were awarded to the entire defense for the shutout, running back Jamal Lewis on offense and Anthony Poindexter for special teams. ... Running back Priest Holmes has been fined $2,500 by the NFL for a chop block earlier this season, but the team has appealed it. He was flagged for another one Sunday, although replays suggested it was a questionable penalty. ... Long Reach's Pete Hughes was named Ravens high school coach of the week. ... The Ravens sold out their home games against the Browns (Nov. 26) and the San Diego Chargers (Dec. 10) over the weekend. The only tickets available to purchase for the remainder of the season are the 1,800 left for the New York Jets (Dec. 24).
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Site: Cleveland Browns Stadium
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Ravens by 8 1/2