- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

WESTMINSTER, Md. This is how Terry Allen sees his season with the Baltimore Ravens: The team repeats as Super Bowl champion, after which he hangs up his cleats and walks off into the sunset.

Allen, an 11-year pro out of tiny Commerce, Ga., would be the first to tell you that his exceptional career is on the downside, even if the Ravens don't think so. Baltimore signed the 33-year-old former Washington Redskins running back last week to replace injured starter Jamal Lewis, who blew out his left knee Aug. 8.

For now, Allen is the third-string running back behind second-year man Jason Brookins and rookie Chris Barnes. Allen will not play in tonight's preseason road game against the New York Jets, and that's fine with him.

"I feel like I'm ready, but I don't need the preseason the last two [preseason] games will be good enough for me," Allen said. "I'm going to take enough beatings in the regular season, I don't need to compound them."

That's understandable. Injuries have plagued Allen's career. He is perhaps the only player in NFL history to come back successfully from reconstructive knee surgery twice.

In 1990, Allen missed the entire season and then set a Minnesota Vikings single-season rushing record with 1,201 yards in 1992. In 1993 with the Vikings, Allen ruptured his right ACL and missed the season. After sitting out all of 1993, the 5-foot-11, 208-pounder rushed for 1,031 yards eighth best in the NFL.

Allen's best year came with the Redskins. The four-time 1,000-yard rusher was selected for the Pro Bowl following the 1996 season, when he rushed for a team-record 1,353 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The Ravens thought Allen was the best free-agent running back available last week after working out four others. Allen eventually will get his chance, and the Ravens fully expect him to win the starting job.

"With a veteran like that, you have to respect his work," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "We can't really change up too much in the running game. A running back can only run in so many holes."

For his career, Allen has rushed for 7,956 yards on 1,986 carries (better than a 4.0 average) and 70 touchdowns. Allen started his career with the Vikings as a ninth-round draft pick out of Clemson. At Minnesota from 1992 to '94, Allen worked with offensive coordinator Brian Billick, now the Ravens' coach.

Obviously, being a veteran who is familiar with Billick's system gave Allen an edge during last week's free-agent tryouts. Allen played for the New Orleans Saints last season and gained 179 yards on 46 carries helping fill in for the injured Ricky Williams.

"I'm sure he could have [played] tonight if we really pressed it, but I just wanted to kind of ease him back into it," Billick said. "I just want him to be really comfortable and in shape when he comes back in to play. I'm probably being a little more protective of him than he is."

The Ravens can ill afford to lose Allen. It's unlikely that he will produce 1,364 yards like Lewis did last season, but the slasher with quick feet is being looked upon to provide some semblance of a running game without forcing the team to sign or trade for another back.

At best, Brookins and Barnes are a year away. Allen sees holes open up because he understands blocking techniques. He hits holes cleanly because he understands the timing and tempo of the plays. Once Allen gets into complete football shape and fully grasps the playbook, he most likely will be the starter.

"I've played 11 years and haven't won one [Super Bowl] yet," he said. "That's a long drought."

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