Ja. Lewis, recast Ravens take first step

Out all of 2001, back runs at minicamp, returns to team of unfamiliar faces

He says knee is about 85 percent

`Foster kids' look to get acquainted, move past absent Super Bowl names

April 27, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The first day of minicamp represented square one for Jamal Lewis and the Ravens.

In his first practice since blowing out his left knee in August, Lewis was back in a familiar setting amid an unfamiliar crowd, looking around the Ravens' locker room and recognizing only a third of the faces. He is just one of six remaining starters from a team that won the Super Bowl 15 months ago.

"Dang, I just got here two years ago and now everybody is almost gone. I guess I'm a captain now," Lewis said. "That's just how it is. You have to grow up fast."

Lewis participated in nearly all of the drills, toughing it out in the two-hour non-contact practice. Despite favoring his left leg, he continually finished off runs by laboring 30 yards into the end zone and tested out his knee with the occasional cutback.

The Ravens still consider Lewis to be right on schedule.

"What happens is as hard as he has worked it's not the same when you start playing football," Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "Today is the first step on football skills. He's not ready to put on pads and hit the hole. Our goal there is [training camp in] July."

Lewis estimated that his knee is at 85 percent and disagreed that he would need two years to fully recover.

"It's how hard you train and how your body heals," Lewis said. "Right now, I'm eight months out of surgery and I feel great. It's not where I need to be, but I have time."

Like Lewis, the entire Ravens team took its first step in starting over.

Instead of seeing Sam Adams, Rob Burnett and Tony Siragusa, the Ravens' defensive front in the newly installed 3-4 scheme was Anthony Weaver and Marques Douglas at ends and Kelly Gregg at nose tackle.

Instead of hearing the riotous sound bites from Shannon Sharpe, the former Ravens tight end's locker was being quietly shared by receivers Ron Johnson and Javin Hunter.

The biggest switch was at inside linebacker, where Bart Scott, an undrafted rookie from Southern Illinois, was subbing for the absent Ray Lewis.

In order to surround himself with some familiarity, outside linebacker Adalius Thomas put photos of Siragusa, Burnett and safety Rod Woodson above his locker.

"Going through the change, you have to keep your family album," Thomas said. "You have to keep your roots."

How drastic is the change for the Ravens?

When minicamp officially opened, 42 of their 78 players were rookies. There were undrafted free agents signed from the likes of Delta State, Northern State and Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

Ravens guard Edwin Mulitalo suggested that everyone should wear names on their helmets.

"You go from two years of having a family atmosphere to now we're foster kids," Mulitalo said. "But that's part of the change we're doing. We've accepted it and now we have to move on.

"The main thing we want to get out of this weekend is to get a sense of team. To look at guys and try to put a name to them.

"It's just overwhelming if you think about it. We're going to go out there and play together and not know each other."

As the team begins to jell, the depth chart will continue to take shape.

The hole at right tackle was temporarily filled by guard Jason Thomas. The Ravens will look at some free agents now and expect to add one or two more tackles after the second round of cuts on June 1.

"There will be a number of other candidates that will emerge over the next couple of days and next couple of weeks as we get into some of the June signings," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

What a difference a year makes.

Last minicamp, Siragusa arrived in a helicopter and others were ushered in limousines. These days, the most popular mode of transportation is the rookie bus to the team hotel.

This youth movement had Billick glancing down at his roster at record pace in practice.

"The fact that they're here makes this very real now and the understanding that, boy, we have to play with those guys," Billick said.

"But it doesn't diminish the excitement and the enthusiasm of working with these young guys."

Still, a year removed from a Super Bowl season, Billick needed to considerably revamp his team's off-season goals.

"If by the end of the weekend, they know where the weight room and bathroom is," Billick said, "we're going to be a step ahead."

New look

The Ravens' first team at minicamp:

OFFENSE DEFENSE

QB: Chris Redman......LE: Anthony Weaver

RB: Jamal Lewis..........NT: Kelly Gregg

FB: Alan Ricard............RE: Marques Douglas

WR: Travis Taylor..........OLB: Adalius Thomas

WR: Brandon Stokley.....OLB: Peter Boulware

LT: Jonathan Ogden........ILB: Ed Hartwell

LG: Edwin Mulitalo............ILB: Bart Scott

C: Mike Flynn......................CB: Chris McAlister

RG: Bennie Anderson......CB: Gary Baxter

RT: Jason Thomas............FS: Ed Reed

TE: Todd Heap...................SS: Anthony Mitchell

Note: Inside linebacker Ray Lewis was absent from minicamp, and defensive end Michael McCrary did not practice.

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