Jamal Lewis looks forward to taking one final run against his former team

November 13, 2009|By Mike Preston

Since the 2000 season, the Ravens have tried to copy the blueprint that led them to the Super Bowl title. But they've never been able to duplicate the running back of that season.

Running backs like Jamal Lewis come along only once in a while, and the Ravens have yet to find another runner like Lewis. Few teams do.

"It's rare to get that kind of power, speed and size in that kind of a back," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Guys like him, Chuck Muncie, Corey Dillon, John Riggins, they only come along every so often.

"In 2000, Jamal Lewis was a main ingredient of that team. We had a dominating defense and a strong running game, but Jamal gave us explosive plays. People will remember him as a big back, and they tend to forget that once he got into the secondary, no one ran him down."

I won't forget, and neither will Ravens fans. Jamal Lewis can't forget either. He has played an illustrious 10 years, the past three with the Cleveland Browns, and he is the Ravens' all-time leading rusher, with 7,801 yards on 1,822 carries and 45 touchdowns. On Wednesday, Lewis said again that he will retire at the end of the season.

But on Monday night in a nationally televised game, Lewis gets one more shot at his old teammates, the Ravens. And then seven games later, he'll retire, as a Raven, of course.

"Being able to go out playing my old team on 'Monday Night Football,' that will be a great one," Lewis said. "Being that I will be playing these guys for the last time, being able to suit up against Ray [Lewis] for the last time, it's a good thing. It will be a memorable moment.

"The Ravens gave me my shot. That's who brought me in. That's where I pretty much did all my work. I have a lot of memories there, a lot of older players that helped me out and brought me in, led me and showed me the way. That's where I got it from."

We won't see the Lewis of old on Monday night. He has no help on offense because the Browns don't have a good quarterback or a quality receiver. The offensive line is atrocious. But, hopefully, Lewis won't embarrass himself. Because of his work ethic and leadership, Lewis might survive one or two more years in the league as player and mentor the way Earnest Byner did when the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996, but that's not his style.

Whatever juice that was left in his body has been drained by the Browns, one of the most mismanaged franchises in professional sports. Lewis, though, said the team's 1-7 record was not a part of his decision to retire.

"I'm tired of it, and that [10 years] was my goal," he said. "That's all I wanted, so, time to move on. I made that decision before the season even started. I'm in good shape, and that's how I wanted to leave the game, so I can be able to do other things."

Throughout his career, Lewis dished out more punishment than he absorbed. Unlike Franco Harris, Lewis would rather run over a cornerback or safety at the sideline before crossing over it.

Like Earl Campbell, Lewis made defenders tremble once he got his shoulder pads squared at the line of scrimmage and turned downfield. Among Lewis' trademarks were those little steps coming out of his stance, but once he was in full stride, Lewis was as frightening as a runaway 18-wheeler.

Some of his best moments came on the sideline with Ray Lewis. They chided and challenged each other. If Ray Lewis delivered a big hit, he would tell Jamal Lewis, "Your turn." If Jamal Lewis ran over a player, he would tell Ray Lewis, "Now, it's your turn."

They called themselves The Lewis Boys, and on most Sunday afternoons, they were unbeatable.

In seven of the previous nine seasons, Lewis rushed for more than 1,000 yards. In 2003, Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards, 39 short of the single-season record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.

During the final game of that season, it was amusing watching Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher put eight or nine defenders in the box so Lewis wouldn't set the record against the Steelers. That season, Lewis destroyed the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland with big rushing games.

"That season will be part of his legacy. He almost broke the record," Newsome said. "When you analyze that, you're going to find out that Jamal was more than just a power runner. Jamal was a home run hitter."

Unlike some players who leave the game with little money, Lewis started three companies, including a trucking firm that earns him a couple of million dollars annually.

He has some great memories of Baltimore, especially the 2000 Super Bowl season. Lewis also has had some good conversations with his former coach, Brian Billick. The two weren't on the best of terms when Lewis left after the 2006 season, but Lewis said he thought Billick was a great coach who took care of his players and had a great philosophy.

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