J. Lewis will begin camp running with second unit

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Billick says Holmes is the starter -- for now

April 28, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Jamal Lewis will have to earn the starting running back job.

As the team's first full-team minicamp begins today, the fifth overall pick in the draft will run with the second unit, and last year's primary backup, Priest Holmes, will work with the starting group for now.

The Ravens will practice twice today and tomorrow for nearly two hours each time and end minicamp with one session Sunday.

"Priest Holmes will be the starter," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There's a great deal of anticipation for Jamal. But in due respect for Priest, who's an outstanding running back, Jamal's going to have to prove he's worthy. He showed he was worthy of the fifth pick, but he has to show he belongs in the starting lineup."

Besides just running the ball, Lewis needs to show that he can pass protect as well as run pass routes. But realistically, the Ravens wouldn't waste that high of a pick on the Tennessee rookie if they didn't project him as a starter right away. Last year, the Ravens ran for an average of 109.6 yards while scoring just nine rushing touchdowns.

Holmes didn't play in seven games last season, but he took over for injured Errict Rhett and started the final four games. The third-year back finished with 412 yards over the final five weeks.

"Priest Holmes will play a lot of football for us," Billick said. "Right now, Priest is the starter. But it's our hope in drafting someone like Jamal, he can step up and give us a dynamic that didn't exist before."

Backing it up

The NFL's second-ranked defense may be down to some second-string players, as four starters will be out or see limited action.

All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis has an excused absence while preparing for his murder trial, and tackle Tony Siragusa is expected to be a no-show as he attempts to renegotiate a new contract.

The Ravens have also taken a precautionary approach with Pro Bowl players -- linebacker Peter Boulware and end Michael McCrary -- and will practice both of them sparingly. Boulware had off-season surgery on his shoulder, and McCrary has had three knee operations in the past four years.

"It gives us an opportunity to get some other guys little more work than they would have got otherwise," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "It's a good thing. You like to have your unit together, but we could lose a guy to injury. So, it's good these other guys get work in."

No snap judgment

For the first time in his NFL career, starting quarterback Tony Banks won't have to learn a new playbook. But he may have to help teach it.

Banks, who has had to adjust to a new offensive system in each of his first four years in the league, is the only Ravens quarterback remaining from last season. He may have to lend a hand to Trent Dilfer, a free-agent signing from Tampa Bay, and Chris Redman, a rookie out of Louisville.

Nevertheless, Billick will sacrifice some rough spots this weekend as Dilfer and Redman get comfortable.

"You can't have Tony in there taking every snap just because he's the only one knowing what's going on," Billick said. "It's not good for Tony. So you'll struggle through it. We probably could look a little sloppy out there because you got some new guys. But it'll come around real quick."

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