Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis isn't expected to play in Sunday's game against Cincinnati because of a toe injury that has prevented him from practicing all week.
Citing Lewis' toughness, Ravens coach John Harbaugh refused to rule out the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year against the Bengals.
"Ray is Ray, you can't count Ray out," Harbaugh said Friday. "There could be reports out there and you guys could turn over some rocks and figure out and ask, and think you have something, and you might have something. But you might not. We're talking about Ray.
"We'll find out on Sunday, really. Ray has had shoulders dislocated and he's done 35 push-ups on the sidelines to prove that he can go. He's had hamstrings that have torn off the bone because he went ahead when he should have been gone."
Lewis visited a South Florida specialist Thursday, who confirmed the damage to his toe suffered in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Lewis has started 57 consecutive games, a streak dating back to December 2007. Lewis, 37, leads the Ravens with 68 tackles, also getting two sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles this season.
"The injury is not any kind of serious, serious thing," Harbaugh said. "I think I saw a report that it was career-threatening this morning. No, it's not. Ray may not go, he may go. The Bengals will have to prepare for him either way, so it really don't matter. It's something that he could play with possibly, but we are very confident in our linebackers and we're very confident in our defense."
Undrafted free agent Dannell Ellerbe is preparing to start at middle linebacker. Ellerbe has started four career games, with 87 career tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
"I'm always ready," Ellerbe said. "I had a good week of practice. I feel ready to go. I took a lot of reps. I just go out there and show what I've always been showing, that I'm able to play in the league and play for the Ravens."
Despite filling in for such an accomplished player, Ellerbe said he's not nervous.
"I really don't feel no pressure," he said. "I'm just trying to go out there, have fun with it. It's some big shoes to fill."