OWINGS MILLS – It was a mixed bag of medical news for the Baltimore Ravens with the revelation that middle linebacker Ray Lewis intends to play in Sundayâ€™s home opener against the New York Jets despite a strained triceps muscle and confirmation from offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden that he’s out indefinitely after aggravating a lingering turf toe injury.
A magnetic resonance imaging exam didn’t reveal any tear in Lewis’ right arm, contradicting his initial fears following Monday night’s 27-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Meanwhile, quarterback Steve McNair is likely to be a game-time decision with a groin pull and Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed optimism about his status.
None of the three stars practiced Wednesday.
Ogden’s injury is regarded as the most serious as he was unable to make it through the game after spending the entire offseason rehabbing an injury originally suffered last December. Even though he didn’t incur any more apparent structural damage, he declared himself as doubtful for Sunday’s game, which means that Adam Terry is a virtual lock to start at left tackle and rookie Marshal Yanda will start at right tackle.
"I know we’re not supposed to talk about injuries, but I don’t think there’s any way I can play," Ogden said. "You never know, miracles have occurred before, but that’s what it would be if I were to get out there and play this week. I just aggravated it pretty substantially, so it’s more week to week.
â€œI’m really disappointed because I felt like I was trying to go out there and help the team. I was playing OK, considering how limited my practice time had been. I got bull-rushed and the foot just gave out on me and I could hardly walk."
Ogden pondered retirement during the offseason. Now, he’s facing the grim reality that he might not be able to play again this year despite recuperating for the entire offseason and preseason.
Billick said earlier this week that he didn’t know if Ogden would be able to return.
Still, Ogden expressed hope that he will play football again this year and didn’t second-guess his decision to not have his big toe surgically repaired.
"I’m confident of that," Ogden said. "It’s a little disheartening situation right now. I didn’t come back to not play. You can’t cry over spilled milk. Definitely down, but not out.
"It’s just the most maddening, most frustrating pain I’ve ever had. I’ve pulled hamstrings, sprained knees, hurt necks, shoulder and I still managed to recover relatively quickly. But this toe has just been a mystery to me, how it continues to nag and nag and then feel better and do what happened on Monday night."
It was an entirely different story for Lewis, who was credited with a game-high 14 tackles despite injuring his arm on the first defensive snap. Backing off his prior stance that he had torn his triceps, the perennial All-Pro guaranteed he will start against the Jets.
â€œI’m great, my arm feels so much better," said Lewis, adding that he got his hand caught in a pile-up and wrenched his arm, not on a much-replayed, subsequent tackle of Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. "It’s just a bad strain. I don’t see nothing changing with my status. Is the pain there? Of course, but it is what it is. There’s nothing torn, that’s always a blessing.
"To go through a day of letting it heal and Iâ€™m like, ‘Wow, I’m actually fine.’ When something freakish like that happens and you lose control of your arm, you get kind of nervous. I looked in my teammates’ eyes, and I knew there was no way I was going to let one arm keep me from fighting."
Added Billick: "It’s my understanding that it’s not torn, but that may be a technical nuance. I’m certainly not going to contradict the athlete."
After consulting with head trainer Bill Tessendorf, Lewis said he felt assured that he’s not going to further damage his arm by playing. He insisted that he won’t require surgery after this season.
"Hopefully, the pain doesn’t get any worse," Lewis said. "I can’t hurt my team any, so let’s just go. I’m going to go through what I got to go through, pain-wise. I told my mom, ‘It’s just one arm. I’ve got a whole other body left.’"
With McNair undergoing treatment, backup Kyle Boller took all of the snaps with the first-team offense.
The Ravens haven’t ruled out McNair from starting Sunday.
"I think the soreness is kind of going away," said McNair, who didnâ€™t throw at all Wednesday. "Hopefully, every day it gets better and, hopefully, I can get out there on Sunday and play.
"That’s my goal. I’ve been through this before as far as injuries and not participating in practice and then playing and playing well. If it comes down to it, that’s what I’ll do."
With McNair, the chief issue is whether he can play effectively and deliver the football, not his pain tolerance.
"He’s a tough guy, if it’s just pain, that’s a no-brainer," Billick said. "Can he throw and push off it comfortable and be functional? That’s the big issue."
Wide receiver Derrick Mason, who’s entering his 10th season playing with McNair, was upbeat about the quarterback’s outlook.
"Steve has had every injury possible, but he’s been able to fight back," Mason said. "It’s nothing new. He’s a professional and he knows what it takes to play in the next game."
A year ago when the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback first arrived in Baltimore that might not have been as viable a scenario. Although McNair is coming off a horrendous outing where he fumbled three times and threw one interception, he’s well-versed in the playbook.
â€œLast year would have been a totally different thing,â€ McNair said. â€œKnowing this offense and having chemistry with these guys, I don’t think it will take much.
"I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way or this team in harm’s way. Hopefully, things work out and I can play on Sunday."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran