R. Lewis tells Ravens he's skipping minicamp

Billick says linebacker has `legitimate reasons'

Pro Football

April 26, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

An old face will be conspicuously absent and an extraordinary number of new ones will be present at the Ravens' minicamp this weekend.

Linebacker Ray Lewis will not be present for the three-day voluntary camp, which starts today and will include more than 40 rookies and undrafted free agents. Players are not obligated to attend, but the Ravens expect everyone to participate except for Lewis.

"I talked to Ray, and he has legitimate reasons," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "This camp, given the number of true rookies that we have, is going to be very rudimentary.

"The league has stressed very clearly that voluntary means voluntary, and we have to honor that. And so, although we'd love for him to be here, clearly it is acceptable that he is not."

Lewis and his agent, Eugene Parker, are in negotiations with the Ravens to rework his contract. Lewis has two years left on his current deal, and there was speculation that him missing minicamp was directly related to his contract status.

The Ravens dispute that.

"[Lewis' absence] has nothing to do with that," said Ozzie Newsome, senior vice president of football operations.

Lewis could not be reached to comment. The Ravens also are attempting to extend the contract of linebacker Peter Boulware, who is in the final year of his deal. The team wants both deals done by June 1.

"I asked Ray very specifically, is this in any way, shape or form a reflection of the pace [of contract negotiations], and he said absolutely not," Billick said. "He told me he knows that it will get done and will leave that to the appropriate parties."

NOTES: The Ravens are continuing negotiations with defensive tackle Larry Webster, released earlier this season in a salary cap maneuver. ... Billick met with members of Congress yesterday to promote "The Coaches Clinic" - an event May 18 at Ravens Stadium at which Ravens and Washington Redskins coaches will meet with high school coaches to discuss motivational tactics, physical conditioning, teamwork and leadership. Billick and Redskins coach Steve Spurrier will be present. For information, call 1-877-611-4065.

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