OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will miss the remainder of the season with an arm injury, an enormous blow to an already depleted defence that has uncharacteristically struggled this year.
Lewis tore his right triceps during Sunday's 31-29 victory over Dallas. The 37-year-old Lewis leads Baltimore in tackles and is the voice of experience in the huddle.
"Ray in the locker room afterward, we didn't know (the extent of the injury) but he was worried about it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "He said some things about his faith. He said some things that I'll never forget."
Over a spectacular 17-year career, Lewis has been invited to 13 Pro Bowls, was named Super Bowl MVP and is a two-time NFL defensive player of the year. He turns 38 in May, so it's possible that Sunday's game was his last.
"That's for Ray to speak on," Harbaugh said.
Baltimore also lost cornerback Lardarius Webb for the year after he tore the ACL in his left knee Sunday. The injury occurred when Webb collided with Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant in the first quarter.
Neither Lewis nor Webb spoke after Sunday's game and both were unavailable for comment on Monday.
For Harbaugh, it was more about the players than the impact losing them would have on the team.
"I'm disappointed for those guys," Harbaugh said. "It doesn't matter how I or someone else feels about it. It's their thing. These are guys that put so much effort, heart and soul into what they do."
Webb missed the latter part of his rookie season in 2009 with a torn right ACL, and now he's facing surgery again.
"Lardarius was distraught. I could see it when I walked onto the field, on his face," Harbaugh said. "He kind of knew because he's been through it before. I just felt like he knew. He was just beside himself."
The loss of Webb took some of the edge off Baltimore's third straight win.
"I'm hurting for that guy right now," safety Ed Reed said. "I know how hard he works to be out here and what he brings to the game. We have to play for him and pick him up because he's young."
Webb, who turned 27 last week, probably has many years left to play. Lewis' status is not as certain.
Lewis missed four games last year with a toe injury. During the week and on game day he cheered for his teammates and offered encouragement. That, evidently, will be his job over the next few months.
"When you look at his situation and what he's accomplished, and what he was hoping to accomplish this year, he's going to have to accomplish those things in different ways because that's the way it's gone," Harbaugh said. "He puts his faith in providence. That's where he's going to go with that."
Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe will fill the void left by Lewis' absence. It's the same role they filled last year.
"Those guys have played a lot of football and we've got a lot of confidence in those guys, Jameel and Dannell," Harbaugh said. "We feel good about that."
Jimmy Smith will probably step in for Webb.
The manner in which the Ravens rebound from the loss of Lewis and Webb will determine if they make the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
"I feel great about our guy's chances to fill in," Harbaugh said. "That's something we've been able to do in the past. Obviously, that's going to define what we're going to be able to accomplish this year. That's something we're going to need to do, from a leadership standpoint and from a playing standpoint. Our chances of doing it? I won't put odds on it. That's just something that we're going to have to get done."
The Ravens (5-1) have struggled to make up for the loss of linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon. Baltimore yielded 489 yards, a franchise-record 227 on the ground, against Dallas on Sunday.
Now that the defence is without its leader and best cornerback, the Ravens may have to abandon its usual method of success.
"There have been many, many times where we've won because of our defence has carried a heavy, heavy burden over the years," Harbaugh said. "For our offence to carry some of that burden, and for our special teams to carry some of that burden, is a great thing. I'm quite sure our defence is going to do the same during the course of the season. I've got a lot of confidence in those guys. We're going to play really good defence as the year goes on."
Next on the schedule for Baltimore is a trip to Houston (5-1) in a rematch of last year's playoff game.