- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 25, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens haven’t had it easy the past month. First, they had to play two games with their star running back serving a league-mandated suspension. Now, they must face the reigning Super Bowl champions with him out with an injury.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said yesterday Jamal Lewis will not play Sunday against the New England Patriots (9-1) because of a sprained right ankle.

“He’s definitely out this week,” Billick said. “Bottom line, doctors are optimistic he’ll be able to go next week.”

Lewis, who has rushed for 651 yards and five touchdowns on 159 carries this season, was injured on his second carry in Sunday’s 30-10 rout of the Dallas Cowboys and did not return.

Chester Taylor was solid in the two games he started last month in place of Lewis, who served the suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy after pleading guilty to trying to set up a drug deal. He gained 167 yards on 39 carries as the Ravens split the games without Lewis.

“I’ve got two starts under my belt so far this year, and I’m just looking forward to helping my team the best way I can against a great defense in the Patriots,” Taylor said. “If we can pull out a win this week, it would really help out our team a lot.”

With backup running back Musa Smith out for the season with a broken leg and Lewis hobbled, the Ravens were left with just Taylor and return specialist B.J. Sams before they signed Jamel White to the active roster and Tellis Redmon to the practice squad yesterday.

The 5-foot-9 White is a good receiver out of the backfield who caught 46 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown for the Cleveland Browns last season. In four seasons with the Browns, White finished with 1,324 yards and nine touchdowns. He played sparingly for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year before being cut.

Still, the Ravens don’t seem to think Taylor will need any help against the Patriots.

“It helps that [Taylor] got that experience,” Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. “When someone gets hurt, someone steps up. When Jamal was suspended, he stepped up. So now that Jamal is hurt, he’s going to be able to step up in the same way like he did in those other games.”

Even though Lewis will miss his third game of the season Sunday, he has put up decent numbers, albeit nothing like he did last year. Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards, just 39 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season NFL record.

Whereas Lewis rushed for more than 100 yards 12 times last season, including a league single-game record 295 yards against the Browns, he has reached the century mark just twice in eight games this year. He had 186 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 26 and 116 yards against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10.

The Ravens haven’t looked smooth rushing the ball since Lewis returned from the suspension. Baltimore has averaged 120.4 yards a game this season but only 80.3 in the last three games, including a season-low 59 yards against the Cowboys.

“I believe defenses are working harder to stop our run and try to force us to pass. They’re dropping extra guys down on the line,” Taylor said.

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