Ray Lewis returned to the practice field to a standing ovation.
As he jogged from the facility Wednesday afternoon, back in pads, back on the field for the first time in weeks, his teammates gave him a slow clap.
Lewis has missed the past four games with a turf toe injury, the first time he’s been on the sideline since the 2007 season.
The Ravens defense has performed well without him, but it’s obvious they’re glad to have their leader back.
“Whenever he does return, we’re going to be back to a great defense,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said before practice began.
“If we get him back in there, we get the greatest player to ever play a football game. If not, our young guys are going to play great for us. It’s a win-win.”
Suggs made it a point to say that the job linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellebe have done stepping in for Lewis should not be diminished.
Without Lewis, the defense has still been suffocating the last three games. It surrendered six points and 170 total yards to San Francisco, 10 points and 223 yards to Cleveland and 10 points and 167 yards to Indianapolis.
“McClain and Ellerbe definitely stepped up for us and did a great job,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “But when Ray Lewis comes back, I think you’ll see some of that excitement and leadership and fire come back. That will be good for us.”
Lewis did not speak with the media Wednesday, but said he was feeling “way better” during a holiday charity outing on Tuesday. He did not say whether he would be able to play in San Diego on Sunday.