J. Lewis: Getting franchise label wouldn't be issue

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ravens Notebook

December 16, 2005|By BRENT JONES AND JAMISON HENSLEY | BRENT JONES AND JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTERS

While a number of NFL players protest the franchise tag, Ravens running back Jamal Lewis said he would not be surprised nor disappointed if the team placed the label on him this offseason.

Lewis is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March, but the Ravens could retain the running back by placing the franchise tag on him, which means he would be paid the average salary of the top five running backs in the league.

He still could sign a long-term deal with another team, but the Ravens would receive two first-round picks for compensation, making such a scenario unlikely.

It was assumed earlier this season the Ravens would use the franchise tag on Lewis, but the former Pro Bowl player has had his worst year as a professional, averaging 53.2 yards in the 12 games he has played, with a 3.1 yards-per-carry average.

Lewis had averaged 4.7 yards a carry and 96.1 yards a game heading into this season.

"If that's how it goes, that's how it goes," Lewis said of getting the franchise tag. "Like I said, it's business. I'll take it."

Lewis, though, thinks such a move would make little sense from the Ravens' perspective. Franchised running backs made $8.1 million this season, and that number may go up.

"I don't see why you would franchise a person that you split time with," Lewis said of his rotation with Chester Taylor. "You give him the ball 10 to 14 times. I wouldn't franchise a person like that. Why would you?"

Lewis went on to say that he has no idea what the team will do and has not heard anything from management. He says he gets his information from the media.

Defense on defensive

Ravens coach Brian Billick rubbed some players the wrong way yesterday when he criticized the defense after practice, a league source said.

The Ravens' defense has allowed 19.5 points a game (14th-best in the NFL), while the offense has scored fewer points than any other team except the New York Jets.

Although he wasn't responding to Billick's post-practice comments, linebacker Adalius Thomas admitted that there is a burden on the defense to carry the team.

"If the defense doesn't play well, probably 99.9 percent of the time we're not going to win," Thomas said. "That's just the hand we've been dealt. That's our style of play."

Boller open to new ideas

Quarterback Kyle Boller didn't throw out the idea of seeing a sports psychologist, an idea first presented by Billick on Monday. The Ravens want to explore any option that would help Boller settle down in games.

"I'm going to do anything I can to be the best player I can. If they think that's a good way to go about it, then I'm open to everything," Boller said. "It's not like I take that personal or anything. A lot of people see sports psychologists, so anything I can do to play better and help this team win."

End zone

Right guard Keydrick Vincent (thigh) was placed on injured reserve, becoming the fifth starter whose season has ended early because of injury. The Ravens signed linebacker Zac Woodfin to the active roster and added tight end Bobby Blizzard to the practice squad. ... There were no changes to the injury report. The Ravens remain unsure about the availability of defensive end Tony Weaver (knee and back), who is questionable. "We will see how the week goes, but I am more optimistic this week than I was last," Billick said.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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