After sitting out his rookie season to rehabilitate a significant knee injury, Ravens defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was savoring every aspect of his return to football. But his comeback — and the Ravens' depth at defensive line — took a brutal hit Sunday when Lewis-Moore was carted off the field with what appears to be a torn left Achilles tendon.
If early indications are correct, Lewis-Moore — who appeared to be the team's top backup behind Chris Canty — will become the second Ravens defensive end to suffer a season-ending injury in training camp. Rookie fourth-round pick Brent Urban tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee July 30.
"Kapron Lewis-Moore had a major injury," Harbaugh said after Sunday's practice. "All indications are that it's an Achilles, so he'll probably be out. We'll see, but that's what I've been told so far. That was really disappointing for a guy that had the ACL last year. It's going to be tough for him. We'll rally around him, and he'll be back stronger than ever next year."
Lewis-Moore, who was injured as he rushed the passer, sobbed loudly while he was loaded onto the cart and taken inside the team facility. The injury cast a somber mood on the second day of joint practices between the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Players from both teams, along with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, took a knee in prayer as Lewis-Moore was being tended to on the field.
"The way he went down, you knew. You never heard a man scream that way," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "You knew something was wrong. It's kind of tough to even speak about it because of what he went through last year, coming back and making headlines now of being a significant piece of what we've got going on. And then to have it give out on a simple play like that, it's really unfortunate, but the team is going to stay behind him. Hopefully, he makes a speedy recovery."
Lewis-Moore, 24, was one of five players, including two Ravens, who didn't finish Sunday's practice because of injuries. Cornerback Asa Jackson, who had emerged as the leader for the No. 3 cornerback spot, also was helped inside the team facility, unable to put much weight on his right leg.
Harbaugh said the Ravens got relatively good news on Jackson, calling the injury to the third-year cornerback "minor." Still, Jackson likely will miss "some number of days," according to Harbaugh, the latest blow to a struggling cornerback group.
Top cornerback Lardarius Webb continues to be sidelined with a lower back injury. Veteran Aaron Ross already has been lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon that occurred on the eve of training camp. Chykie Brown, who has been working as a starter, has struggled throughout training camp.
The Ravens have been scouring the market for another cornerback for several weeks. They may now need to add defensive end to their list of needs. Lewis-Moore and Urban were listed as the top two backups behind Canty, the 31-year-old who missed one game last year and seven games in his previous season with the New York Giants.
"We have tremendous depth around here, but to lose those two guys, with all that potential … and they were doing so well in camp," Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "They definitely showed that they would have been able to help this team win, and to lose them in camp is unfortunate. We all know injuries are part of the game. It [stinks] that it happened. Like I said, we wish both of those guys a speedy recovery, and when we'll be fortunate enough to get them back, we'll get them back. Until then, we just have to continue to work."
The most likely scenario is third-year player DeAngelo Tyson becoming Canty's primary backup, though the Ravens lack a proven defensive end behind Tyson. One option would be moving rush linebacker Pernell McPhee inside, which is where he played in his first two seasons in the NFL. The Ravens do like to rotate their defensive linemen in and out to keep them fresh, but the two injuries limit their options significantly.
"The next guy will be up, and we'll find a way to do it," Harbaugh said. "There are always going to be injuries. You adapt, you adjust and you fill out your positions."
While still working off rust that resulted from sitting out last season, Lewis-Moore had impressed team officials with his play during training camp. He tied rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley for the most snaps on the Ravens' defense with 24 during the 23-3 preseason win Thursday night against the 49ers.
Afterward, he spoke excitedly about being on the field again and playing in front of a big crowd. It was his first game action since he tore the ACL in his right knee as a standout defensive lineman at Notre Dame during the BCS national championship game against Alabama in January 2013. He also detached his MCL in the same knee the previous season against Southern California.
The Ravens drafted Lewis-Moore in the sixth round last year, knowing that he'd likely need a season to rehabilitate his knee. Lewis-Moore talked earlier this month about how beneficial last year was for him to not only get his knee stronger, but to learn the playbook.
Unfortunately for Lewis-Moore, it appears that he has another significant rehab ahead.
"The kid has been having a phenomenal camp," Suggs said. "To see him work all the way back and to get injured in camp is very unfortunate. It's a horrible feeling. I feel terrible for him, but I'm going to wish him a speedy recovery, and we're going to get back at it."