Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ravens should keep Ray Lewis on the bench

Towards the end of the Special Sound FX featured on NFL Network which showcases the Ravens v. 49ers Thanksgiving game, John Harbaugh while pacing the sideline and Ray Lewis nearby asks rhetorically after David Akers tied the game at 6-6, “Where else would you rather be?” Ray Lewis replies, “On the field.”

Harbaugh: “Oh yeah, sorry man!”

But it begs the question, when will Ray Lewis get back on the field?

I don’t know about you but I’ve had my share of ankle and toe injuries as it relates to the Baltimore Ravens. Knock on wood, things could be far worse but these nagging injuries that just won’t go away just seem to linger.

• Lee Evans injures his ankle area in the preseason and so far has missed 7 games
• Jimmy Smith suffered a high ankle sprain during the season’s opening kickoff against Pittsburgh and missed the rest of that game and 4 others
• Ben Grubbs struggled with turf toe and missed 6 games

And now the turf toe monster has bitten the team’s leader Ray Lewis.

But there are plenty silver linings gleaned from all of these injuries.

• Evans’ injury gave Torrey Smith more playing time than ever imagined and his productivity has exceeded expectations in his rookie season and the maturation process has accelerated
• Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb have shaped into a formidable cornerback duo in Smith’s absence and with his return, the secondary’s depth grew deeper
• The next man up after Grubbs was Andre Gurode and while he certainly had his fair share of struggles, Gurode’s time on the field in a Ravens uniform allowed the 5 time Pro Bowl center a chance to develop rapport with his O-Line mates and re-experience guard play

Which brings us to Ray Lewis…

With Dannell Ellerbe down v. San Francisco, Albert McClellan got the call to fill Ray’s shoes and if the Ravens are smart, they’ll keep McClellan or even a recovered Ellerbe on the field in place of Ray for the next two games.

If the team and more specifically the medical staff learned anything about any of those aforementioned injuries, exercising on the side of caution and providing extra rest pays dividends. Lee Evans made a huge play against the Niners and should be another vertical threat for Joe Flacco going forward; Jimmy Smith gets to grow as a nickel without the pressures of being a starting rookie corner.

It is no small coincidence that the offensive line play has picked up measurably since Grubbs’ return and there are no apparent lingering issues with the turf toe. The team podiatrist was spot on. The extra rest helped and the same prescription should be extended to Ray Lewis even if he is chomping at the bit.

Sit him against Cleveland and the winless Colts and have him ready for the late December stretch run. To give in to Ray’s angst to get back to where he wants to be – “on the field” given these next two very winnable games would be a mistake.

We’d all hate to hear that, “sorry man” again from Harbaugh – particularly if it is in response to Ray’s season coming to a premature end due to one nasty toe that simply needed a little R&R.


Jerry B said...

Couldn't agree more, TL. He will be needed more in the playoffs than against Cleveland and Indianapolis, so why rush him (no pun intended!). There seems to be a spate of ankle and foot injuries, including the infamous, "Turf Toe", that hastened Jonathan Ogden's retirement. No one mentions the artificial surfaces as a possible cause and, of course, the league would get apoplectic at the notion, but I'm just sayin'.........