As the Ravens come together for their full-team minicamp today, the spotlight will fall on one player: Jamal Lewis.
The All-Pro running back will speak to the media before his first practice since being indicted on federal drug charges, addressing the accusations against him and how he's handling this situation.
But what won't be seen is how the Ravens are handling the situation as a team behind the scenes. Lewis' case will be a main topic at the team meeting as officials prepare their players to handle this distraction long before the season starts.
"We'll make sure the team members understand what the circumstances are and what their responsibilities are with regard to it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I'm always concerned with anything that detracts our focus from the task at hand. But there are going to be a countless number of things that are going to happen from now to the end of the season whether it's injury or any adversity. We've been through this before, and we know how to handle it."
Lewis' news conference is expected to be brief.
His attorneys advised him not to speak with the media until after his trial, but team officials preferred him to address the charges now rather than cause a greater distraction at training camp next month. The Ravens indicated he would not answer questions specifically relating to his case.
"With regard to Jamal, we've got to respect the process he's going through," Billick said. "Between now and when the trial date is set, there's really nothing for us to comment on as a team or from Jamal. It's a legal process. We knew this time was coming. He'll answer everything he possibly can. But there's really nothing he can answer in regard to the proceedings."
Because Lewis has missed the team's offseason workouts, another issue will be his conditioning. The team has monitored the body fat of Lewis, who has been training in Florida, and expects him to report in shape.
"I have great trust in him of being ready when it's time to be ready," running backs coach Matt Simon said. "We have a very clear understanding of what being in shape is. He's very good about doing what he says he is going to do. That's one of the things that people don't realize about the guy that I have an opportunity to appreciate as his coach. We set a goal and he reaches the goal. He has never denied me the opportunity to be happy about his achievement of a goal."
The only players expected to miss this week's mandatory camp are cornerback Chris McAlister (contract-related issue) and linebacker Peter Boulware (knee surgery). Linebacker Ray Lewis (thumb) is scheduled to be limited, and cornerback Gary Baxter (hernia) will not participate in drills until training camp.
McAlister, the team's franchise player, might miss the start of training camp if talks on a long-term contract don't progress next month.
"It's a different set of circumstances that we have to respect," Billick said. "This is the business side of it. Certainly, we want him to be here. His teammates want him to be here. And I'm sure Chris would want to be here.
"But right now, he feels there's a contractual situation. He's doing what he thinks is in his best interest, and we have to respect that."