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Bruised Ravens start to heal

The Baltimore Sun

With the Ravens' home opener against the New York Jets three days away, there are varying degrees of concern regarding three star players.

Linebacker Ray Lewis is certain he'll start Sunday despite having a badly strained triceps muscle in his right arm.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is doubtful about facing the Jets after "substantially" aggravating a toe injury, but he's confident he'll play again this season.

And quarterback Steve McNair could start with an injured groin -- coach Brian Billick said he's "very optimistic" about it -- although Kyle Boller took all the snaps yesterday with the first-team offense.

McNair didn't throw a pass during practice, and Billick said that will be the "litmus test" for whether he starts.

"He's a tough guy. If it's just pain, that's a no-brainer," Billick said. "But can he throw and push off it comfortably? That's the big issue."

In Monday's season-opening, 27-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, McNair had trouble following through on his throws because of the groin injury, which resulted in several high passes.

McNair said the soreness has lessened and he's getting treatment three to four times a day on the injured left side of his groin. He seemed to be moving around better than he did Monday but still had a slight limp.

McNair and Billick indicated the quarterback's availability could be a game-time decision.

"I've been through this before as far as not participating much in practice and then playing -- and playing well," McNair said. "If it comes down to it, that's what I'll do."

Billick said McNair probably would need to practice at some point before playing Sunday.

"That's a lot to ask of a quarterback to not get the reps within the system all week long [and then play]," Billick said. "If he can get some throws [Thursday] and follow up on Friday, I'll have more of a comfort zone."

If McNair can't play, the Ravens would turn to Boller, who hasn't started a game in 20 months.

But the players on offense have the mind-set that McNair will play, especially those who have seen him battle through injuries.

"Being with Steve for 10 years, you can never count the dude out," receiver Derrick Mason said. "You go out and prepare as if your starting quarterback is going to play. That's the way we're approaching it."

The bigger worry for the Ravens is the long-term status of Ogden.

The 10-time Pro Bowl lineman said he aggravated the big toe on his left foot when he got bull-rushed in the opener. The foot gave out and he could hardly walk on it.

Considering it took Ogden eight months to recover from the original injury, there had been speculation that the latest setback could be career-threatening. Ogden said he is "confident" about returning this season and considers his status week-to-week.

"It's a little disheartening situation right now," Ogden said. "At the same time, I'm going to keep a positive outlook and hope that I can get myself back out there and do what I need to do. I didn't come back to not play."

Without Ogden, the Ravens will start Adam Terry at left tackle and rookie third-round pick Marshal Yanda at right tackle.

Ogden, who did not practice, continued to receive treatment that consisted of ultrasound, electrical stimulation and ice.

"The doctors say this could clear up pretty easily or it could linger and nag," Ogden said. "I'm hoping that it clears up. That's the approach that I'm going to take right now."

Ogden was hesitant to second-guess his decision not to have surgery on the toe this offseason because both specialists didn't recommend it.

"Maybe it could've helped, maybe not," he said. "But it's not my decision or call."

Lingering questions about Lewis' status were cleared up by the eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

After thinking Monday he had torn his triceps muscle, Lewis now says he only strained it. He emphatically said that he'll start Sunday.

"I don't see anything changing with my status," said Lewis, who did not practice. "Right now, I'm giving it some real good rest. It feels great. Is the pain there? Of course, but it is what it is. There's nothing torn. That's always a blessing."

Lewis injured his arm on his first play Monday when it got caught between two players. Essentially playing with one arm for the rest of the game, he made a team-best 14 tackles.

"I told my mom it's just one arm. I've got a whole other body left," Lewis said. "Once the doc gave me the OK [this week] and said I can't hurt it any more, I said, 'I'm playing.'"


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