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Greeted with loud applause by 200 underprivileged children during his annual holiday charity event Tuesday afternoon at the Port Covington Wal-Mart, the Baltimore Ravens' All-Pro middle linebacker expressed his gratitude to them.
Except for expressing confidence that he will definitely play again this season, Lewis offered no concrete predictions on when he might return after missing the past four games while the Ravens have gone undefeated in his absence. "Your faces are the ones that keep me going, even when I'm going through what I'm going through," Lewis told the children. "I've heard the questions a billion times: ‘How is your toe? When are you going to play again?' All of that is awesome. Through my injury, in the time that I've been going through what I've been going through, the people that I've met, the people that I can make smile even through my pain, there is no greater reward than that. Sometimes, God removes you from the field so he can get you to another place."
Lewis is projected to possibly make his return Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. However, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year hasn't practiced in weeks after being listed on the injury report as participating on a limited basis prior to the Ravens' win over the San Francisco 49ers.
"Whenever it's time for me get back on the field, I'm definitely going to get back on there," Lewis said. "I'm feeling way better, I'm feeling way better. And that's exciting news I thought I had a good chance the last four weeks to play, but the coaches are always going to make those decisions. I don't mind being smart. The warrior side of me, of course, is always going to want to get back out there."
When asked if he was certain he would play again this season, Lewis replied: "There's no reason not to be confident."
And when asked if that would happen before the playoffs, Lewis said, "Like I said, we'll see." While Lewis has been out, the Ravens' defense has remained strong and is ranked third in the NFL. They contained Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson.
They shut down 49ers running back Frank Gore and sacked quarterback Alex Smith nine times. They stonewalled Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. And they held the winless Indianapolis Colts to a mere 50 rushing yards.
"I take my hat off to my team," Lewis said. "Every man, every week, there's always been a different player making a play. That's kind of real exciting to see. No one man wins the Super Bowl. A team wins a Super Bowl. I think we grew a lot as a team these last couple weeks. There's a reason for everything. "
With Lewis out, inside linebackers Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Albert McClellan have all made valuable contributions.
"When God removes you from something, he's trying to show you something else," Lewis said. "God has shared with a lot with me these last couple weeks. A lot of what he's shared with me, I've shared with my teammates. It had to happen. If it didn't happen, we don't know where we would be right now. We're coming together as a team. You see great teams go on to do great things through adversity. That's what I'm proud of my team doing right now."
Lewis' foundation and Wal-Mart provided gifts for all the children and their families. And Lewis' mother and sister and other relatives were on hand for the event. Sporting a big smile, the 12-time Pro Bowl selection said the event brought back memories of his youth.
"Sometimes, you find yourself going through so much and you want to complain," Lewis said. "When you walk in here, you can't because you know there are so many people here that aren't as fortunate. I told my mom coming here, it always gets emotional for me because I was once here in my life.
"Every year, it gets better and better, the smiles. Sometimes, you want to complain. There's so many people that's unfortunate to have a Christmas, to have that alone. It always gets emotional for me. You try to control your emotions, but it's always hard. That's why I do everything I do."
NOTE: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording three sacks and three forced fumbles against the Colts. This marks the second time in the past three weeks he's won the award. Suggs leads the Ravens with 13 sacks, has registered seven in the past three games and now has three sacks in three separate games this season. He has forced six fumbles and intercepted two passes.
"He's playing great," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't think there's a defensive player in the league who's playing better than Terrell Suggs right now."
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