Ravens, Ja. Lewis together again

Running back gearing up for minicamp after injury to knee ended '01 season

April 12, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

When the new-look Ravens open minicamp in two weeks, they will welcome back a familiar face.

Running back Jamal Lewis will return to the practice field for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 8. The Ravens' leading rusher during their Super Bowl championship run in 2000, Lewis is expected to participate in the non-contact camp that runs from April 26 to April 28.

"Everybody's anxious to see him actually out there," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I'm sure he's anxious to be out there and moving around in a team environment.

"I don't expect a lot out of minicamp. We will go as far as the trainers say he can go. Up until training camp, we'll really let the trainers set the pace."

Two weeks ago, Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf spent two days at the University of Tennessee, where Lewis has been rehabilitating his left knee. Lewis, a former Tennessee star, has been making an hour commute to Knoxville, Tenn., from Gatlinburg, Tenn., five days a week.

Tessendorf's visit allowed the Ravens to check up on Lewis' workout schedule. He monitored how Lewis lifted on the first day and then watched him run and change directions on the second day.

Minicamp is considered an important step for Lewis in his recovery.

"As hard as anyone works out, it's not quite the same when you're in competition," Tessendorf said. "He is not going to be in what I would call training-camp shape. But it's part of the progression. In July, he's going to be in training-camp shape."

Billick will be keeping an eye on Lewis' endurance.

"You want to see how he is looking in the third and fourth practice," Billick said. "He's been working out incredibly hard, but does the knee fatigue? Does he start to carry it a little bit? But it's still a little early to push him to that degree."

Lewis underwent successful reconstructive surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Sept. 5. It's the second time in four years that Lewis' season ended because of a knee injury. While he was out last season, he served a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance and alcohol abuse policy.

Last year, the Ravens were caught short in the backfield when Lewis went down and never maintained a consistent running game. That's why picking a running back next week as insurance to Lewis is one of many draft needs.

The team has had visits from Boston College's William Green, the top-rated running back in the draft, and Miami's Clinton Portis, who could go anywhere from late in the first round to late in the second round. The Ravens also like UCLA's DeShaun Foster, who is projected to be taken in the second round, and have other options later in the draft. Last year, the Ravens used a fifth-round pick on Chris Barnes, who flopped and was cut in training camp.

"Even without the injury, you'd really hope to come away with a running back in one form or another, but hopefully the draft," Billick said. "If it has to be the veteran free agent in June, so be it. The injury just adds a sense of urgency to it."

NOTES: Team officials said they continue to get closer to restructuring the deal of defensive end Michael McCrary. The Ravens need to shed $850,000 in salary before the draft to make all 10 of their picks. ... The Ravens had a pre-draft visit from Miami, Fla., safety Ed Reed, a projected first-round pick. ... The Marching Ravens are taking applications for musicians, flag line, honor guard and equipment crew. Call 410-557-8335.

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