In his first three seasons with the Ravens, Dannell Ellerbe started just seven games. If he starts Sunday's regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound inside linebacker will have matched those seven starts just in 2012.

A torn right triceps to 13-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis thrust Ellerbe into his expanded role, and his significance has grown with fellow starter Jameel McClain lost for the season after suffering a spinal cord contusion on Dec. 9. Ellerbe, who was an undrafted rookie when he signed in 2009, has already set career-highs in tackles (83), solo tackles (62) and sacks (4½).


Despite sitting out three games because of a sprained right ankle, an aggravated left foot and injured thumbs, he returned to lead the defense with five tackles in the team's 33-14 win over the New York Giants last Sunday. Ellerbe, 27, discussed his first performance back from the injuries and the challenge of limiting Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

How did it feel to return after a three-game absence caused by a sprained right ankle and injuries to your left foot and both thumbs?

It felt great to be back out there after the three weeks off. It was killing me watching my team, but I knew [I wasn't] going to go out there and help them make plays and make the defense better. But the ankle, it held up. I'm not going to say it's 100percent, but it's good enough to go.

Does Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis remind you of any running backs you've faced in the past?

He's sort of like a Trent Richardson [of the Cleveland Browns], but without all the jump cutting and stuff. He's a downhill guy. He lands forward when you tackle him. He fights for extra yards. He's not a fumbler. He's just a good guy all the way around.

You mentioned him not being a fumbler. Up until Week 3, Green-Ellis had never fumbled in a regular-season game, a streak of 589 consecutive touches. With that in mind, does the focus shift from trying to strip him of the ball to making sure that you bring him down?

We are focusing on tackling, but the first guy will hold him up and the next guy's going to come get him. We aren't going to go for the strip or a rip.

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