|Browns' Lewis eager to prove Ravens wrong about him letting him go|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 12:39|
During six superb seasons, he won a Super Bowl ring, NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors, rushed for more than 7,000 yards and scored 45 touchdowns as a workhorse running back for the Ravens.
They, in turn, ran him out of town.
Not that he minded.
``I really didn't want to come back,'' he said. ``Honestly.''
On Sunday, Lewis, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns, will face his former team for the first time since the Ravens released him. It was a separation he appears to have accepted, but one that initially hurt as much as being drilled by a blitzing linebacker.
Despite rushing for 1,132 yards last season with painful bone spurs in his ankles, the 27-year-old Lewis became expendable to Ravens coach Brian Billick, who shifted his offensive philosophy from a punishing, running attack to more of a finesse passing game.
In March, the Ravens decided not to pay Lewis a $5 million bonus and handed him his walking papers. The next day they traded for Willis McGahee.
Lewis insists he holds no animosity toward his ex-coach.
``I really have nothing against him,'' Lewis said. ``But when it comes to my career and the things that we've accomplished there and in the past, it kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
``It's kind of like you don't really fit into this offensive scheme anymore and you try to do something else when you've established something already on that offense over the past seven years.''
Billick, too, said there is no bitterness between him and Lewis.
``None whatsoever,'' Billick said.
Lewis, who ran for 2,066 yards in 2003, feels rejuvenated with the Browns (1-2). Ten pounds lighter than his playing weight of recent years, he showed breakaway speed two weeks ago against Cincinnati when he burst through the middle for a 66-yard TD run and finished with 216 yards on 27 carries.
The performance reaffirmed Cleveland general manager Phil Savage's belief that Lewis, whom he helped draft, could still be a No. 1 back.
Ray Lewis never had a doubt.
``I believe Jamal is still one of the top five backs in this business,'' the Ravens linebacker said.
The business of football irks No. 52, the Ravens' heart and soul, who was asked if he felt Jamal Lewis got a raw deal from Baltimore.
``Of course,'' he said. ``The No. 1 reason is we don't look for old-school players any more and J. Lew is an old-school football player. Dealing with the issues here, you know the business of football. The organization is going to look out for them before they look out for the player.
``Once again, they said, 'We can't use you any more, so goodbye.' As a friend you sit back and say to yourself, 'That's B.S.' You really don't want to see that happen. You don't ever want to see Jamal get away.''
Browns coach Romeo Crennel gladly tackled him. He never expected Lewis to be available, and shortly after signing him to a one-year, $3.5 million that can reach $5 million if Lewis hits incentives, Crennel traded incumbent Reuben Droughns.
Crennel would love to give Lewis more carries than the 11 he got in Week 1 against Pittsburgh or the 15 attempts a week ago in Oakland. But Lewis' touches are predicated on the Browns not getting behind.
If Crennel had his way, Lewis would have 25 to 30 rushes per game.
As for this Sunday, Crennel knows Lewis is eager to show the Ravens they made a mistake in cutting him.
``Deep down,'' Crennel said, ``I think he would like to have a career-type game.''
To this point, Lewis' best day came against the Browns in 2003, when he rushed for 295 yards - a single-game NFL record. It's unlikely he'll come anywhere close to that against the NFL's top-rated rushing defense, but Lewis was excited to hear Crennel's comment.
``Wow. That would be great, if we can,'' he said. If we can put it together, that would be great. But I just know it's going to be a slugfest all day, and that's why I'm looking forward to it.''
Lewis may be able to counter Baltimore's superior speed with a built-in scouting report. If anyone can dissect the Ravens, it's him.
``I know the players, I know them individually,'' he said. ``I know what they do best. I know what they don't do best. I think that kind of gives me a little bit of edge, but at the same time, they're still a hard-nosed defense.
``They're going to play hard, they're going to play fast. They're going to rally behind Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and those guys and come hard. I think they're going to play me a little different than they play any other running back.''