J. Lewis slowed in '06 by bone spurs, he says

Ravens running back had surgery last week

January 31, 2007|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Reporter

Ravens running back Jamal Lewis confirmed yesterday that he had surgery a week ago to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and that those bone spurs slowed him during the 2006 season, especially in the first six games until he took injections to ease the pain.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome first spoke about the surgery yesterday at the Ravens' annual season-ending news conference. Later in the day, Lewis said from his home in Atlanta that he has a splint on the ankle and that it could be removed as early as today. He expects to start jogging in another one to two weeks and running again in seven weeks.

Lewis, according to his agent, Mitch Frankel, could receive a $5 million roster bonus on March 3 if the Ravens pick up the option on a contract he signed last March. Lewis said team officials knew of his ankle injury, and that he had problems cutting and accelerating until Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints, when he started injections to numb the problem area.

Lewis said he "numbed" the area every game from that point because he could see an improvement in his performance.

"This surgery was nothing, really, just to remove bone spurs and clean it out," Lewis said. "It's not like I had ligament surgery. It would have been worse if I didn't get it done. Last year, I never had full range of motion in my right ankle. I couldn't plant like I wanted to, couldn't push off and accelerate. Everybody knew it, but I wasn't going to tell anybody.

"People kept saying that I had lost some steps. They talked like I was 33 instead of 27. I noticed that I didn't look like my old self in the first part of the season. You notice that I started playing better against New Orleans. That was the first time I numbed it up, and there was no pain when I cut or accelerated. That was also Brian Billick's first game as the offensive coordinator, and that's when they started giving me the ball more. I still gained over eleven-hundred yards for the season, and they didn't run me until after the sixth game."

Lewis first injured the ankle during the 2004 season and had surgery to repair it during the offseason in 2005. He said the bone spurs were a result of his not being able to fully rehabilitate the injury because he was incarcerated for six months shortly before the start of the 2005 regular season after pleading guilty in a federal drug case.

He said yesterday that he trained hard this past offseason but noticed early in the season that he lacked explosiveness and couldn't push off on his right foot. Lewis averaged 58.7 yards during the first six games.

"I talked to my guy who came in every week last season to work with me, and he said I didn't get the proper rehab after the ligament surgery," Lewis said. "But I knew what was at stake with this team, what we had strived for, and I knew I had something to prove to Ozzie. I worked with what I had. I used the tools that were in the box.

"Regardless of the pain and agony, I played every game. Sometimes I couldn't feel a thing in my ankle, but I did notice that the explosion came back."

Lewis, the team's first-round draft pick and the fifth overall selection in 2000, is the Ravens' all-time leading rusher and combined yardage leader. The former Pro Bowl performer and NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 has 7,801 career yards on 1,822 carries with 45 touchdowns.

The Ravens are 23-7 when Lewis rushes for 100 yards. But last year, Lewis couldn't run through tackles as he once did. Cornerbacks who once feared him were taking him down one-on-one. Lewis had made a name for himself with classic cutback runs at the line of scrimmage. He had the power to run through any tackler and the speed to outrun him.

But there has been speculation that the Ravens won't pay Lewis the $5 million roster bonus, instead asking him to take a pay cut with a reduced role, or not re-sign him at all. Lewis didn't seem bothered by the injury or any future Ravens plans.

"Hey, I'm not going to criticize schemes or call out coaches," Lewis said. "The Ravens know what I can do. I can get outside, do my thing and give a little shake and bake. That's not my strength. I can still run inside with power. I'll have full range of motion back in my ankle this season.

"Like I said, if the Ravens are serious about making another Super Bowl run, then they'll bring me back. ... I'd love to come back and play for the Ravens, but if not, I know I can play for somebody."

Newsome and other team officials met for the first time yesterday morning to evaluate personnel, but there was nothing to report on Lewis.

"We were aware of Jamal's problem the whole year," Newsome said. "We considered the recent surgery a cleaning out. I don't know how much those bone spurs affected his play. ... But I do know that he suited up and played every game, and that says a whole lot about the guy."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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