Ray Lewis has decided to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery rather than prolong his frustrating effort to return to all-pro form.
After missing six of the Baltimore Ravens' last seven games, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker opted to turn his attention toward next year and have an operation on his ailing left shoulder.
The procedure is expected to take place within two weeks.
"Making the decision to have the surgery was difficult," Lewis said. "In my mind, I've gone back and forth. I wanted to put this team on my back and get them back to the playoffs, but that's not the best thing for me to do right now."
Not with a sore shoulder, anyway.
"We knew that surgery was going to have to be done at some time," Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "Reality has really settled in on him over the last week or so. He knows that surgery will make him better, and that is the best option for him right now."
Lewis partially separated the shoulder trying to recover a fumble in an Oct. 6 game against the Browns. He missed the next five games, then returned to record a team-high 18 tackles against the Dolphins on Nov. 17.
But he injured his calf in a collision with a teammate during the Dolphins game and was back on the sideline last week against Tennessee.
"This is so frustrating, and it's so hard not playing, especially the home games," Lewis said. "I kept delaying and working with [Tessendorf], hoping to find a way, but it didn't respond the way I hoped it would, or the way the trainers and doctors thought it might."
Team officials said it will take between four and six months for Lewis' shoulder to heal after the operation, a recovery time that should have him ready for next year's training camp.
"This is the right decision," Ravens Coach Brian Billick said. "In July, when he's ready for the start of training camp, we'll all be pleased that he had the surgery in early December, rather [than] later."
The Ravens are 3-3 without Lewis, who made 63 consecutive starts before sitting out Baltimore's game in Indianapolis on Oct. 13.
Bernardo Harris, who took over for Lewis, will remain the starter in Baltimore's 3-4 defense.