Report: Ray Lewis to return before end of season

Well, from all appearances, using the NFL's new "designated to return" tag on Ray Lewis wasn't just misdirection.

Originally believed to be lost for the season because of torn triceps, the Ravens' middle linebacker and emotional leader is expected to return before the end of the year, according to a Yahoo! Sports report this morning.

More than six sources told the website that Lewis could be back as early as Dec. 16 against the Denver Broncos, the first game he'd be eligible to play, and one source indicated that he could be back at practice Thursday when he's first permitted to do so.

Lewis has missed the Ravens' last five games since suffering the injury in a 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys and then undergoing surgery. The team is 4-1 in his absence, stringing together four consecutive victories after being handled by the Texans in the first game without Lewis.

The Ravens might not have to go much longer without Lewis, as he could be back in the middle of their defense just three weeks from now.

"We'll see in another couple of weeks," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. "Stay tuned."