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Ravens' Ray Lewis out for season

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (Dec. 7, 2005) -- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis underwent season-ending surgery on his torn right hamstring, concluding a frustrating year in which he played in only six games.

Lewis has been sidelined since Oct. 23, when he left in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Chicago Bears. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year worked hard to return from the injury, but finally decided surgery was the best route.

The operation was performed in South Florida.

"It was the right thing to do. It gives him the maximum rehab time, multiple opinions," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He sought them all, we sought them all. It was great that we were able to come to a resolution. I'm sure he's comfortable with it."

Even though he has missed the past six weeks, Lewis still ranks second on the Ravens with 77 tackles. His replacement in the middle, Tommy Polley, has 93.

It's the second time in four years an injury significantly cut short Lewis' season. In 2002, he played in only five games before being placed on injured reserve with a separated shoulder.

Lewis was listed as questionable last week against Houston, but never got close to being healthy enough to play. At that point, he began to seek other medical opinions.

He opted to have surgery and begin working toward next year, a decision likely influenced by the Ravens' poor performance this season.

Baltimore is 4-8 and out of playoff contention.

"The decision had to be made early. Do you have surgery or not? So the decision was let's rehab it and see where it is," Billick said. "Had you done the surgery six weeks ago, would it be appreciably different than doing it now? There's a school of thought that says let's strengthen it and see where it's at. Maybe you don't need surgery.

"There was great strength to the point where he could probably play, but on re-examining it, from the long-term perspective, it was probably better to go with the surgery, because it was the best long-term solution."

The Ravens long ago adjusted for Lewis' absence by moving Polley to the middle and using Bart Scott on the outside. Scott and Polley have performed well, but it's virtually impossible to replace Lewis, 30, who led the Ravens in tackles in eight of his nine seasons before this one.

"It's huge, but you gain some things when you lose a player of that caliber," Billick said. "There are people that have to step up; we did it in 2002, we have this year. We'd prefer not to go through it, but we'll focus on the things we've been able to do with Ray Lewis and the people we have out there, and we'll get a much better idea of what their abilities are."

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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