- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens' perennial Pro Bowl middle linebacker, participated in his first extensive practice in more than a month yesterday, then said offseason shoulder surgery likely will be necessary to repair his partially dislocated left shoulder.

Lewis said he is still feeling pain but is tired of dealing with it. After practicing with the first-team defense, he said he won't know until tomorrow whether he will play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Pro Player Stadium.

"I know I'm going to have [surgery] after the season, but let that come," Lewis said. "We still have a long time left to play. I don't want to go have surgery and have my young guys worry about me. It's always discomfort any time you have a chip or tear. After a five-week process, I've learned to adapt to it."

Lewis injured his shoulder Oct.6 pouncing on a loose ball in the third quarter of the Ravens' 26-21 victory in Cleveland and has missed five games. The Ravens have gone 2-3 without him.

Meanwhile, coach Brian Billick is more concerned about Lewis being in football shape than about his bad left shoulder.

"There's a conditioning factor here, too," Billick said. "There's a football aspect of it, OK, he may be fine, but he hasn't played in a month. So we've got to keep that in mind as well as he progresses through this."

Before the injury, Lewis was the Ravens' leading tackler with 69 stops (44 solo, 25 assists) in three-plus games. Veteran Bernardo Harris has filled in admirably for the team's undisputed leader with 36 tackles and two interceptions..

Harris, an eight-year veteran with a Super Bowl ring from the 1996 Green Bay Packers, said he would obligingly step aside whenever Lewis says he's ready to resume playing.

"If I'm called upon to play this week, I'm all prepared to do that, but if Ray's ready to play, it's his job," Harris said. "He's almost made this defense, made what Baltimore is, and how they're mentioned now. So if he's healthy and ready to play now, I'm happy for him. I understand my role."

This is an important game for the Ravens (4-5). A win over the reeling Dolphins (5-4) would keep Baltimore squarely in the AFC playoff hunt. The Dolphins are preparing their game plan expecting to see Lewis, who was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP in 2000.

"We have to count on him playing and just deal with it from there," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Lewis, who was a three-year starter (1993 through 1995) for the Miami Hurricanes in college, said he'll have plenty of family and friends attending Sunday's game. Despite that, he refused to commit himself to facing the Dolphins.

"If I can get away with it, I will I'm not worried about re-injuring it," Lewis said.

Lewis, who has more than 1,100 tackles over seven seasons, has been sleeping with a harness to keep his shoulder stable at night. Lewis also ruled out taking pain-killers just so he can play.

"I don't know about pain-killers and all that, they use that stuff for horses," he said.

The Ravens will get a better indication of Lewis' availability when they don full pads in today's practice. How the shoulder feels afterward probably will determine his participation Sunday.

"Some say he will, some say he won't, we'll see on Sunday," linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "I'm sure if he does play, he'll play well."

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