- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

WESTMINSTER, Md. Auditions for the role of lead running back for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens begin today.
Ozzie Newsome, senior vice president of football operations, said the Ravens will bring in a "couple" of free agents for a workout today as the search starts to replace Jamal Lewis, who was lost for the season when he tore his left ACL during Wednesday's morning practice.
Newsome refused to divulge names, but Chris Warren (a Robinson High School product), former Ravens running back Errict Rhett and former Washington Redskins running backs Adrian Murrell and Terry Allen are among the more attractive players available.
"There are guys out there on the street right now that we've been in contact with throughout the summer, and a couple of those guys will probably be in here tomorrow for a workout," Newsome said. "We've also had conversations with other teams about trades."
The Ravens did not rule out coaxing former Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith out of retirement. Baltimore coach Brian Billick once was Smith's offensive coordinator in Minnesota. Smith rushed for 1,521 yards on 295 attempts with seven touchdowns last season but retired after undergoing offseason knee surgery.
Through his agent, Smith said he had no plans to come out of retirement.
"I think there are a lot of parameters involved," Billick said. "He is still going to be the property of Minnesota to a certain degree. I believe there is a time frame coming off retirement a lot of mechanics would make that certainly difficult but I wouldn't rule it out altogether. That would have to be something really Robert would have to initiate. We're going to explore all options."
Newsome and Billick said they have three current options. One is to turn to rookie running back Chris Barnes or second-year man Jason Brookins during the preseason. The Ravens could sign a veteran free agent who can help the team this year and in the future, or they could trade for a running back.
The Denver Broncos are loaded at running back with Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and last year's rookie phenom, Mike Anderson. According to a report out of Denver, Anderson is listed as the Broncos' third running back behind Davis and Gary and might be available.
Anderson rushed for 1,487 yards last season with 15 touchdowns and was named AFC offensive rookie of the year. It's doubtful Denver would agree to a trade with the Ravens because the teams again figure to contend for the AFC championship.
Newsome said the Ravens and Broncos have consummated deals in the past. It was rumored that the Ravens offered their second-round draft pick in April's NFL Draft to the Broncos for Anderson but were turned down.
Without Lewis, who rushed for a team single-season record 1,364 yards on 309 carries with six touchdowns, the Ravens' offense may become more pass oriented. If Baltimore can't acquire a suitable running back, Billick said his offense may go to a one-back formation with three wide receivers.
Quarterback Elvis Grbac was signed as a free agent from Kansas City to bolster the league's 22nd-rated passing attack. Without Lewis, the Ravens might lack a dominant running game and be forced to pass more this season.
"This is something I think Elvis, of anybody, is the one that will be probably the most comfortable because he is very familiar with it," Billick said. "Last year he was on a team that ran the ball less than 400 times, which is very rare. He did not have much of a running presence, and he knew he was going to have to carry them and also was on a team that had a mid-level defensive presence. He knew it was all on his shoulders, and he responded with a Pro Bowl year with 4,000-plus yards and 28 touchdowns."

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