Lewis injury: no second thoughts for Billick

He defends using player, back's extra effort

July 30, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A day after watching Jamal Lewis suffer an elbow injury, Ravens coach Brian Billick defended his decision to play him as well as the one made by his rookie running back.

Billick indicated that he didn't think twice about playing his first-round draft choice in Friday's scrimmage against the Washington Redskins and applauded Lewis' attempt to gain more yards, which resulted in a dislocated left elbow.

In his first carry as a pro against another team, Lewis got tripped up at the line of scrimmage and tried to keep his footing by stretching his left arm to the ground, when a Redskins defender rolled over it. Lewis is expected to be out four to six weeks.

When questioned about Lewis' running style, Billick backed Lewis' choice to fight for more yards rather than just cover the ball with two hands and fall to the ground.

"It's one of those things where fate takes a hand and it happens," Billick said. "It has nothing to do with conditioning. It has nothing to do with running style. It's just a matter of fate and you can't worry about those things."

Billick also shrugged off any notion that he shouldn't have played Lewis in the scrimmage -- even in hindsight. He had slated Lewis to play 10 to 15 snaps before the injury.

"How do you not play a rookie?" he said. "If you try to protect people too much, you're going to get them hurt."

Dressed in a gray T-shirt and an olive baseball cap, Lewis watched yesterday's intrasquad scrimmage from the sideline. Lewis said he feels less pain in the elbow than he did on Friday and has his sights on returning for the season-opener at Pittsburgh on Sept. 3.

With Lewis out, the beneficiary of more exposure is another former Tennessee running back, Jay Graham, who now moves into the backup spot. The Ravens' third-round draft pick in 1997, Graham has seen his carries drop each of his three years with the team and didn't carry the ball once last season.

"Jay's going to have everything he's hoped to have, which is an opportunity because I'm not going to expose Priest Holmes to too much during the preseason," Billick said. "Jay Graham is going to get a lot of playing time, and he's going to get a chance to show everything that he's wanted to show. We'll find out what kind of a player he is."

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