- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis returns Sunday from his two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and it couldn’t be against a better opponent.

In seven career games against Cleveland, Lewis has compiled more than 1,000 yards rushing — including 500 combined in two games last year — and he gets another chance to batter the Browns on Sunday at M&T; Bank Stadium.

“I had to serve my punishment, but I think it was for the better, too, so I could get some rest,” Lewis said. “I’m pretty fresh, and my legs are good.”

Lewis pleaded guilty Oct.7 in federal court to trying to set up a drug deal via a cell phone four years ago. He was sentenced to four months in prison and two months in a halfway house, to be served after the season ends, and was handed the two-game suspension by the NFL.

“I was all right — I wasn’t torn apart by the whole deal,” Lewis said of the suspension.

Still, he conceded it was difficult watching the Ravens (4-3) play the past two weeks on television, especially in Sunday’s 15-10 loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis’ teammates can tell the 2003 NFL offensive player of the year is anxious to get back on the field for the league’s fifth-ranked rushing attack (137.6 yards a game).

“We were watching film this morning, and he couldn’t stop shaking his leg,” right tackle Orlando Brown said. “I know he’s ready. He thrives on getting all this yardage, and now he’s got to play catch-up. I know him. He’s focused. He’s ready.”

Lewis rushed for the second-most yards (2,066) in a season in NFL history last year and became just the fifth player to top 2,000.

During the suspension, Lewis said he worked out with his personal trainer to stay in shape.

It’s obvious how much the Ravens depend on Lewis. In five games this season, he has rushed for 494 yards, ranking 11th in the AFC. Baltimore has gone 21-5, including in the playoffs, in games in which Lewis has rushed for at least 100 yards.

His presence becomes even more meaningful as the weather turns cold. Under coach Brian Billick, the Ravens own the league’s fourth-best winning percentage — .683 — in November and December.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis said Jamal Lewis’ return makes the Ravens’ defense stronger, too.

“Everybody knows how well our defense plays when Jamal controls the clock,” he said. “It’s time to go on a nice three or four-game win streak.”

Note — Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams was named AFC special teams player of the month for October. The rookie leads the AFC in punt returns with 25 for 331 yards (13.2 average) and two touchdowns.



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