Ravens' Lewis itching to return for Sunday's game vs. Browns

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Lewis usually helps the Baltimore Ravens win by yelling in the huddle, setting the defense and chasing down the guy with the football.

Lately, the 12-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker has been forced to play the role of cheerleader and sideline coach.

And he's getting pretty darn tired of it.

The 36-year-old Lewis has missed Baltimore's past two games with an injured right toe. He was held out of practice Wednesday but still holds out hope of returning Sunday when the Ravens (8-3) face the Cleveland Browns (4-7).

"There is not even a question, I want to be out there with my teammates," Lewis said. "As a leader, it is hard to watch your team go out there and compete, but I can't be selfish. I didn't want to push it and play if I wasn't 100 percent."

So, while the Ravens were battling against Cincinnati and San Francisco, Lewis watched from the sideline. Before this injury, he started in 57 straight games and was a factor in just about every one of them.

"Even though I wasn't physically out there the last two games, I was with my teammates the whole time cheering them on and in their ears every time I saw something that might help," Lewis said. "I'm doing everything I can to get back and help this team get where we want to go."

The Ravens proved they can win without Lewis by defeating the Bengals and 49ers, but Baltimore is clearly better with him in the middle of the defense.

Without Lewis in the huddle, Jameel McClain has done a fine job of calling plays and setting the defense. McClain even had eight tackles against the 49ers, tied with Bernard Pollard for the team lead.

If all goes well for Lewis this week, he will return Sunday in a game the Ravens need to win to stay atop the AFC North. The Browns wouldn't be surprised at all if No. 52 is back in uniform for the first time since Nov. 13 in Seattle.

"I'm thinking he's going to play," Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. "I know he's a competitor and he wants to be out there and help the team, so my guess is he'll play. They have talent and leadership at all levels of the defense, but he's obviously the leader of the linebacking corps there. I'm sure with him in the lineup, it helps them be better. We're anticipating he'll be in there."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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