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Ravens hurting at linebacker without Lewis

The Ravens don't plan to activate linebacker Ray Lewis by Saturday's 4 p.m. league-mandated deadline, sources tell ESPN's Sal Paolantonio.

That means Lewis won't be eligible to play against the Broncos on Sunday in a battle of two division leaders. This also means the Ravens are really hurting at linebacker in a game that could have major playoff implications.

The Ravens' other starting linebacker, Jameel McClain is out with a neck injury. The linebacker who replaced Lewis this season, Dannell Ellerbe, is questionable with an ankle injury. And outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is a game-time decision with a torn biceps.

It's possible that the Ravens' starting four linebackers could be: Courtney Upshaw, Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan and Paul Kruger. That would be a group of two undrafted players (Bynes and McClellan), a rookie (Upshaw) and a former second-round pick (Kruger). Brendon Ayanbadejo would also see time at inside linebacker.

Sources say the Ravens want to give Lewis, who tore his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas, one more week to heal. The biggest problem for the Ravens is trying to counter Peyton Manning's audibles at the line. In the past, Lewis would get his teammates lined up whenever Manning changed the play. But Baltimore will be without the player known on the team as "The General."

Bynes, who joined the Ravens last season as an undrafted free agent, would get the helmet with the headset if Ellerbe can't play. Bynes has never started an NFL game, but he would be responsible for getting the calls from defensive coordinator Dean Pees and relaying them to teammates.

“That’s what the middle linebacker is supposed to do,” Bynes told The Baltimore Sun. “But I’m used to that. I’ve been doing that for a long, long time. In high school, I was the only one with a wristband, the only one telling the players what the play was. In college, I had the same responsibility. So now, it’s no different than any other time in all of my years playing football. So I’m used to it.”

While Bynes is experienced in handling this role, it'll be much different when he is staring across the line at Manning on Sunday.