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Ray Lewis designated for return; Terrell Suggs on field

The Baltimore Ravens' defense will look a lot different the rest of the season, for better or worse.

For better: The team announced last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, will practice Wednesday and come off the physically unable to perform list. This isn't a huge surprise, but it gives the Ravens a jolt of good news at a time when their defense is reeling.

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All indications point to the Ravens being careful about Suggs' return.

"To what extent, to what he's able to do, I think we should just temper our expectations a little bit," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's coming off a very serious injury, an Achilles tear, and we'll just see how he does."

Suggs still might not return to game action for a few weeks, but this is a big first step in his comeback from a torn Achilles' tendon. Harbaugh says Suggs hasn't had any setbacks, but the team doesn't expect much from him at the moment.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh gave the Ravens' fan base a dose of hope when he announced linebacker Ray Lewis will be placed on injured reserve with the "designated to return" tag. That means Lewis possibly could return this season.

"I have no idea, we have no idea, whether that timeframe has anything to do with the injury," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, it's a very serious injury. But there's an opportunity, and we're going to keep the door open, and we'll just see where that goes, going forward. We really don't know any more than that. He will have surgery today."

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This allows Lewis and the Ravens flexibility should he get healthy enough to chip in during a long playoff run. (Maybe it's not the end of an era just yet.)

In the meantime, the Ravens listed Jameel McClain as the new starting middle linebacker on their latest depth chart. Daniel Ellerbe was promoted to start at outside linebacker, where McClain used to be. Last year's first-round draft pick, Jimmy Smith, will replace cornerback LarDarius Webb, who is out for the season.

The Ravens' defense already was struggling to rush the passer and stop the run before these injuries struck. Suggs should help solve one of those problems when he returns, as long as he's truly ready to return.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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