Ravens planning to keep M. Lewis Modell won't allow top defensive coach to make lateral move

January 22, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is one of several candidates Jon Gruden is interested in pursuing if Gruden becomes head coach of the Oakland Raiders, but Ravens owner Art Modell said last night he would not permit Lewis to talk with other teams unless it was about a head coaching position.

Gruden, the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, reportedly was in meetings with Raiders owner Al Davis yesterday. A Fox-TV station in Oakland, Calif., reported that the deal was complete, and an announcement could come as early as today.

A league source said Lewis is one of Gruden's top candidates for the Raiders' defensive coordinator's job, along with Atlanta Falcons secondary coach Ron Meeks and Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

Lewis declined to comment last night but Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said he had not received a call from the Raiders or Gruden to get permission to speak with Lewis.

Newsome also said Lewis was under contract with the team for next season and that the league was notified that Lewis and assistant coach Kirk Ferentz were given supervisory titles as coordinators one week after the season.

"I haven't heard anything from the Raiders but Marvin Lewis is under contract, and for him to take that position would be a lateral movement, which isn't allowed in the league," Modell said.

"The only possibility of [the Raiders] being allowed to pursue him is if he was going to be named head coach."

There might be other factors involved in the Ravens keeping Lewis. He is the only member of the defensive staff who is familiar with every aspect of the zone blitzing concepts that the Ravens use.

Lewis's departure also would be a major blow for the Ravens because the defense started to become a force by the middle of last season.

After the Ravens finished last in total defense in 1996, the team decided not to re-sign five starters and began to rebuild through the draft.

The defense has a number of good, solid young players, including defensive end Michael McCrary, safety Kim Herring, linebackers Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper and Tyrus McCloud.

Lewis was named to the 1997 AFC Pro Bowl while Boulware was the Associated Press's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The team improved to No. 25 in total defense last season.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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