When Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis suffered a torn triceps earlier in the year, several NFL pundits considered the leader of a contending Baltimore team done for the season.
Apparently, Lewis was just out on extended rest, with plans now in place for Lewis to return to action on Dec. 16 at home against Denver. Ravens coach John Harbaugh initially called Lewis’ injury, suffered Oct. 14 against the Dallas Cowboys “season-ending,” but it appears the surging 9-2 Ravens are set to get one of their key players back. But is Lewis returning too soon? Stephen D. Riley and Perry Green of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Lewis, 37, keeps himself in tip-top shape, so while many suggested that this season would possibly be his last after the injury, there were a few “educated” reporters out there who considered otherwise. I say that to state this: Lewis is coming back too early. It’s not over for the prideful linebacker, so rushing back from an injury not even two-months old is a bit too risky for my taste. Given the way Lewis has conditioned himself throughout the years, he's easily a lock for another two years of play at peak performance. But should he re-aggravate his triceps injury, all bets are off.
Green: It's not about the longevity as much as it is the opportunity. Lewis could probably go another two strong years, but the Ravens have another shot at reaching the Super Bowl and chances like these don't come along often. Lewis is smart, and he wouldn't come back unless he knows he's fully healthy. But the one thing that he knows for sure is that the Ravens have an excellent chance of gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and his return would do nothing but enhance that opportunity.
Riley: But is it worth reinjuring himself when he already has a ring in hand? With the Ravens piloted by young stars in Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, they're going to be in contention for a few more years. Lewis should be smart and take his time rehabbing. If he still wants to return this season, then pull a move like Rod Woodson did with the Steelers in 1995 and come back for just the Super Bowl if the team makes it.
Green: A Super Bowl run just wouldn't be right without Lewis there for the stretch. No one is saying he has to come back and be the same Pro Bowl force he's been, but just his presence on the sidelines alone would pump life into the Ravens. We’re talking as if the team is just going to throw him back in the middle and expect major things. Baltimore is a smart franchise and they'll do what's best for everyone involved.
Riley: It doesn't take much to aggravate an arm injury—especially in a sport where you need your arms to play. I hope Baltimore plays the situation right, because no one would want to see one of the best middle linebackers to ever play exit the NFL because he came back too early for the team's last three games.
Green: But even if he did aggravate the injury, if Lewis can come back in two months from the same injury then have the whole summer to rehab, who's to say it would be the end of his career? Lewis has been hurt before, so he knows what it takes to prepare himself for battle. Teams don't have a championship window held open for them forever. If this is the last year the Ravens are in serious contention for a title, then every player should be giving his all to make sure this last hurrah goes out with a bang.