Lewis' other connection to Cleveland came through Davis. They had known each other since their high school careers ended playing on opposing teams in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game. The rivalry continued when Lewis went to the University of Tennessee and Davis attended the University of Florida.
"As soon as the season was over, I told him to call Phil Savage and that I wanted to be in Cleveland," Lewis recalled. "We've been good friends, and we had a lot of good phone conversations. One of those conversations led to me being here."
The two worked out together near Lewis' home in Atlanta, along with mutual friend Robert Cromartie, who had played with Lewis in high school and with Davis at Florida. Cromartie was the instigator of the now famous three-way telephone conversation that resulted in Lewis predicting he would have a "career game" against the Browns in 2003.
Cromartie said last week that the workouts this winter were a little more intense than in the past.
"Every year he works out hard, but this year you could see a little more fire in his eyes," said Cromartie, who works as a personal trainer for several professional athletes. "A lot of people think he's old and he's lost a step, so he has something to prove."
Since his first conversations with Browns coach Romeo Crennel and new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Lewis could see that he would be used differently by the Browns than he was by the Ravens.
The weight loss was encouraged by the coaches, who envision Lewis getting out to the edge as well as pounding between the tackles.
"Coming off the ankle surgery, his weight probably wasn't where it needed to be, and him coming in great shape was a pleasant surprise," Crennel said. "He has a burst to get to the corners. I know that he can run between the tackles on the inside. I don't think [the Ravens] asked him to run outside much."
Lewis and the Browns' rebuilt offensive line are being counted on to improve a running game that finished next to last in the league in total rushing yardage last year. (It won't help that right tackle Ryan Tucker, who missed part of last season with a mental disorder, was suspended for the first four games because he violated the league's steroids policy.)
Lewis is looking forward to being used as more than a human battering ram.
"I think they're going to use me more in the offense than just pounding the football; that's what I was used for in Baltimore," Lewis said. "Right now with this scheme, I'm more involved, and they're using more of my abilities and what I can do."
Cromartie doesn't see any lingering bitterness in his longtime friend toward the Ravens.
"He's moving on. He had a good career with Baltimore. It's a business move; you have to do what you have to do," Cromartie said.
Lewis said that he will miss the fans at M&T Bank Stadium and many of his teammates, in particular cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister.
"Regardless of what happened [in Baltimore], the bottom line is that no player can stay with a team forever," McAlister said last week. "I definitely think he has something to prove, and he's had the complete offseason to dedicate himself to his craft. Every year he's truly had an offseason to gear up for the season, he's put up big numbers."
What kind of numbers Lewis has left in him is up for debate. Some thought the Ravens hung onto to him too long as it was. Savage is hopeful, but he is also realistic.
"I think it's unfair to wish for the 2,000-yard back of 2003, but based on what we've seen in training camp, our expectation is that he can be somewhere between where he finished last year and the peak of his career," Savage said. "People talk about Jamal like he's 37, not 27."
Baxter, who left Baltimore for Cleveland three years ago, is a little surprised at how good Lewis has looked.
"He's moving faster," Baxter said. "Guys are in awe when he's making cuts. He's lifting weights. He's in the training room every day. When I talk to him, he says he's on a mission, and he's trying to redo everything."
With a bounce in his step, and a chip on his shoulder.