J. Lewis confident about acquittal, '04 season

Ravens: The star running back says that he's `doing fine' and that he expects the drug conspiracy charges to soon be just a bad memory.

Pro Football

April 21, 2004|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN COLUMNIST

Despite being indicted on drug conspiracy charges nearly two months ago, Ravens running back Jamal Lewis said he is confident about being acquitted and anticipates having a better season than in 2003, when he came close to breaking the NFL's single-season rushing mark.

"I'm doing fine, and in very good spirits," Lewis said yesterday, in his first interview since the Feb. 25 indictment. "Everything will turn out OK. I'm confident of that. I really have no other comment. Everybody has been seeing what my lawyer has been saying, and things are looking good right now."

Lewis, indicted in Atlanta on federal drug charges, is accused of trying to help a childhood friend purchase as much as 50 kilograms of cocaine in a deal that turned out to be part of an FBI sting operation in the summer of 2000.

The case covers a period after the former University of Tennessee player had been drafted by the Ravens, but before he signed a six-year, $35.3 million contract with the team.

Lewis, 24, is charged with conspiring to possess, with intent to distribute, 5 kilograms of cocaine and using a cell phone in the commission of a drug crime.

In a 15-minute telephone interview with The Sun last night from Florida, where he is training, Lewis not only was upbeat about being found innocent, but also said he expects to attend all of the team's minicamps and training camp. He declined to talk about his pending trial.

Lewis is represented by Atlanta attorneys Edward T.M. Garland and Don Samuel. Samuel was out of town for a trial and could not be reached to comment last night. Earlier this month, Samuel said the government's case has been weakened by revelations that its key witness has a criminal history.

After his legal issues are resolved, Lewis said, he expects to receive a contract extension from the Ravens. He has two years remaining on his current contract, worth $3.2 million this season and $2.6 million in 2005. Contract negotiations ceased after Lewis turned himself in to Atlanta authorities.

"The new contract will be in the making once everything pans out," Lewis said. "My main concern right now is about this little situation, so we didn't go forth with the negotiations.

"I wouldn't expect them [the Ravens] to offer me anything right now; it's all part of the business. The new deal will come in due time. If I didn't prove last year that I was the best running back in the league, I will prove it hands down this season."

Lewis said he will appear at team minicamps on May 17, June 7 and June 14 and at training camp, to which players report July 29 in Westminster.

Maintaining a playing weight of about 240 to 245 pounds had been a problem for Lewis, but he said he is currently at 245. Two years ago in the offseason, his weight climbed as high as 260 pounds.

He said that he started offseason training about two weeks after his Pro Bowl appearance in Honolulu on Feb. 8, and that his legal problems haven't interfered with the workouts.

Lewis has remained in contact with teammates, especially close friend Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, he said.

"I don't think Ray has been doing much, because he has been slowed by a thumb injury, so we haven't really talked too much," said Jamal Lewis. "With Ed, we've been playing phone tag, leaving messages, making sure everything is going OK and we're both on top of our games.

"We all understand what the goal is and that a Super Bowl is attainable. We're a very experienced team. We know what to expect and what it takes to get to Jacksonville [site of the next Super Bowl]."

Receiver Terrell Owens could have been part of that Ravens' effort. At the Pro Bowl, Jamal and Ray Lewis actively recruited Owens to join the team. The Ravens made a deal with the San Francisco 49ers to acquire Owens, but he contested the move. After an arbitration hearing, a settlement was reached that sent Owens to his preferred destination, the Philadelphia Eagles.

"T.O. [Owens], I thought that was a great deal, because it took a lot of pressure off the running game," Jamal Lewis said. "It would expand defenses. I didn't think it would make a world of difference, but be a piece of the team chemistry. We didn't need a superstar to open up defenses, but speed on the outside. I talked to Terrell, put in my two cents.

"But I'm confident we will find someone [at receiver] and will work this out. I have my goals, but I won't tell anybody, because I don't want to jinx myself. We've got a good offensive line; the only frustration is on the outside. We have to become more versatile with our offense. We have to take it and expand on it. With [new offensive consultant] Jim Fassel on board, it can only help. He should be a great addition."

During the interview, Lewis didn't sound tense. He joked and talked about his bland diet of chicken breast and fruit. He said he has been working out about nine times a week with a personal trainer, mostly with the intention of building his speed.

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