With stars missing, Ravens all business

Offense is focus tonight vs. Eagles in preseason

J. Lewis, Owens to sit out

August 20, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Terrell Owens has avoided playing at M&T Bank Stadium yet again.

Jamal Lewis became a surprise scratch yesterday, too.

These absences have taken some luster off the Ravens' preseason game tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles, where all the attention has fallen back on the Ravens' polishing their reconstructed offense.

New offensive coordinator Jim Fassel has preached all training camp about an aggressive attitude, creating a more balanced game plan and, most importantly, developing an efficient attack.

That explains his frustration after the Ravens opened the preseason last week with three turnovers, including an interception on quarterback Kyle Boller's first throw.

"I told these guys right from jump street: Everybody can talk about us being sexy and glamorous but the first thing you have to do is get rid of the mistakes," Fassel said. "That can cost you games.

"They can talk about New England Patriots all they want. I don't think they're schematically any better or have any better players. That team doesn't make mistakes and capitalizes on yours. That's why they win."

Besides Boller's miscue, the Ravens' starting offense struggled with a couple of drops and a failed red-zone trip.

Boller, who finished 5-for-9 for 57 yards last week, predicts a much smoother game this time. Instead of the first group being limited to one quarter, the Ravens will double that workload.

"To play a full half, you kind of get a feel for the whole game," Boller said. "We just have to get a rhythm to the offense. So when we're playing the Colts [in the regular-season opener], it's like we haven't missed a beat. Our goal this year is to be an efficient offense."

For the second straight game, the offense won't be at full strength.

Tight end Todd Heap (shoulder and ankle) might not play until the preseason finale, and Lewis likely will make his first start next week.

Lewis, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, returned to practice Aug. 9 after an offseason that included ankle surgery, four months in federal prison and two months in a halfway house.

He estimated that his ankle is 90 percent and admitted there is still some soreness.

The coaching staff decided yesterday to not play him after initially planning to use him 10 to 12 plays.

"I think I could actually play this week," Lewis said. "But I don't want to go out there and not be 100 percent. That's not me, that's not how I play. We have two more games after this one, and I think those are the ones I'm really shooting for."

Owens, the volatile Eagles receiver, joined Lewis on the sidelines after aggravating a groin injury Thursday. He tweaked his groin before being dismissed from camp last week.

"He was hurt before he left and is still bothered by that groin," Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said. "It's not near as bad as it was, but I don't want to take any chances. It would be nonproductive."

Owens has made a habit of eluding Baltimore. In March 2004, Owens successfully fought his trade from the San Francisco 49ers to the Ravens and instead ended up with the Eagles in a three-team settlement.

Since he helped Philadelphia to the Super Bowl, Owens has become an increasing headache.

Over the past couple of weeks, he has been kicked out of training camp after an argument with Reid, called quarterback Donovan McNabb "a hypocrite," and engaged in a heated exchange with offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

Asked if he thinks about how close Owens came to being a Raven, Boller let out a sigh of relief.

"I love the guys that I'm with right now," Boller said. "Things happen for a reason. I don't even waste my breath saying his name."

The priority for Boller is building a connection with his current receivers.

Derrick Mason, the team's top free-agent pickup, had one catch and one drop last week. Clarence Moore, the other starter, caught a 30-yard pass but couldn't handle a throw in the end zone.

And Mark Clayton, the Ravens' first-round draft pick, came away with one reception for 6 yards, on a pass from backup Anthony Wright and not Boller.

"I think those first-game jitters are out of everyone's systems," Mason said. "So we can go play football now."

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