J. Lewis, Heap out for start of camp

Ravens running back set for Aug. 8 return

tight end due back a week later

July 27, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' new-look offense will have to deal with some year-old issues when players suit up for training camp Monday.

Tight end Todd Heap and running back Jamal Lewis will be sidelined for the opening portion of camp, continuing last year's trend of missing pieces on offense. Team officials remain confident both Pro Bowl players will be ready for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

Lewis, who is in his final days of a federal drug sentence, is expected to return to team drills Aug. 8, the start of the camp's second week. Heap, who is coming off ankle and shoulder surgeries, is scheduled to come back a week later.

As a precaution, the Ravens will place Heap on the physically-unable-to-perform list Sunday. Barring any setbacks, he should be activated to play in the Ravens' second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 20.

If he were to stay on that list when the regular season begins, he would have to sit out at least the first five games.

"The rehab is going along very, very well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Right now, he is on target."

This ankle injury has dogged Heap for nearly a year. Originally expected to miss two to four weeks last season, he sat out 10 games because of the severe sprain. He was one of seven starters on offense sidelined because of injuries last season.

So, based on his slow recovery last year, is there any chance Heap will not be available for the season opener?

"Right now, I haven't been given any indication that would be in jeopardy," Billick said. "Based on the rehab and the time frame we have out there, that doesn't seem to be a risk."

The timetable with Lewis will be more accelerated.

The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year will be released from a halfway house in Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon. After having a day to collect himself there, Lewis is scheduled to fly Aug. 4 to Baltimore, where he will undergo a physical.

The tentative plan is for Lewis, who had ankle surgery in February, to work on conditioning drills Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, when the Ravens scrimmage the Washington Redskins.

If he proves he's physically ready, he will line up in the backfield during the week before the first preseason game.

"We're very comfortable with the rehab," said Billick, who visited Lewis in Atlanta last week. "He seems to be in great shape. But since we've had no actual interaction with him, it only makes sense to wait. How quickly we throw him back into the fray depends on exactly where his football conditioning is."

The latest health issue came a couple weeks ago, when left guard Edwin Mulitalo underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove gout from his knee. Team officials said there is nothing structurally wrong with the knee and expect him to practice the first day of camp.

The only other player who will be limited is third-string running back Musa Smith (broken leg), who will join Heap on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Meanwhile, Billick said offensive tackle Orlando Brown and cornerbacks Deion Sanders and Dale Carter will follow his veteran regimen, meaning they'll be required to practice just once a day. It's a pacing that should keep his older players fresh heading into the regular season.

"They're at that point of their career and you've got to optimize what's the value of them being on the field in the afternoons," Billick said.

Camp has been trimmed for the rest of the team, too.

In what has become an increasing trend in the NFL, the Ravens have scheduled just five two-a-day practices. Billick has cut down in the three days leading up to preseason games, making them one practice just like the regular season.

"I want to get back to a normal routine as quickly as I can," Billick said. "I think this team is capable of getting done what it needs to on a single-practice-a-day format."

NOTES: The Ravens' negotiations with top draft pick Mark Clayton probably were helped by the Oakland Raiders' signing of cornerback Fabian Washington yesterday. As the 23rd overall selection, Washington agreed to a five-year, $7.8 million contract that includes $5.3 million in guaranteed bonuses. Based on the league's unofficial "slotting" system, Clayton should earn slightly more because he was drafted one pick higher. ... Ravens single-game ticket sales will start Friday at 10 a.m., and it's anticipated that the eight regular-season games will sell out that day. All sales can be completed through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-SEAT (7328).

Ravens preseason

Training camp: Monday through Aug. 19.

Where: McDaniel College, Westminster

Key dates

Aug. 6: Scrimmage vs. Washington at M&T Bank Stadium, noon

Aug. 13: Preseason game, at Atlanta, 7 p.m.

Aug. 19: Team breaks camp.

Aug. 20: Preseason game, vs. Philadelphia, 8 p.m.

Aug. 26: Preseason game, at New Orleans, 8 p.m.

Sept. 1: Preseason game, vs. Washington, 8 p.m.

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