Lewis returning this season is still unlikely

My general rule is never bet against Ray Lewis. This is a man who has played 17 seasons at middle linebacker in the NFL and ranked fourth in the league in tackles at the age of 37. Lewis is the definition of a football freak of nature.

Perhaps that's why the Ravens placed Lewis on injured reserve with a designation to return. This leaves the possibility open for Lewis to come back for the postseason.

My take is that this is a nice gesture by the Ravens but it's still unrealistic -- although not impossible -- to think Lewis will be back at any point this season. ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell indicated that it generally takes at least four months to fully recover from a torn triceps muscle. In the scenario that the Ravens reach the Super Bowl, Lewis would only be 15 weeks removed from surgery when the Ravens begin practicing for that game. Lewis underwent surgery to repair his torn triceps Wednesday, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder.

"Ray Lewis is going to be put on the designated to return list that is new to the NFL this year," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "So, he will not count against our 53 during that period of time. I think that's a minimum of six weeks. I have no idea, we have no idea, whether that time frame has anything to do with him, the injury is obviously a very serious injury. We've got an opportunity to leave the door open and we'll see how it goes moving forward. We really don't know anything more than that."

Maybe Lewis could duplicate the speedy recovery of close friend Rod Woodson. Back in 1995, Woodson became the first player in NFL history to return from reconstructive knee surgery in the same season. Woodson, a cornerback for the Steelers at the time, tore his ACL in Week 1, but he returned in time for the Super Bowl. His recovery took 19 weeks.

If Lewis is somehow able to be there for a Super Bowl run, it could set up a dramatic finish to a legendary career. Lewis once indicated that he would retire if the Ravens won another Super Bowl.

Lewis hasn't said if he'll retire or come back to play next season. He's under contract through the 2015 season.

"You replace him with 53 guys," Harbaugh said. "Ed Reed is a tremendous leader. We have some tremendous leaders. Ray is still with us. He'll be around."