- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Jamal Lewis credits Priest Holmes for teaching him how to be a pro when he was a rookie. Holmes, however, said Lewis already was a finished product when they manned the Baltimore Ravens backfield in 2000.

“I would say as far as what he learned from me was very little because most of his skills he pretty much already had,” said Holmes, who has four rushing touchdowns in three games. “He demonstrated that in camp before we got started with the season, but I think that one of the things I was able to add along with the other guys there that were helping me out was film watching on a Thursday night before the game, just so you can familiarize yourself with the defense that you’re getting ready to play.”

Lewis and Holmes, two of the best running backs in the AFC, get an opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a national television audience tonight when Holmes’ Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) face the Ravens (2-1) at M&T; Bank Stadium.

The field will be a welcome respite for Lewis, whose attorneys the last week have been in plea bargain negotiations with federal prosecutors in Atlanta trying to work out a deal.

Lewis, who was charged with using his cellphone to set up a drug transaction in the summer of 2000, is expected to plead guilty in federal court on Thursday to a lesser drug conspiracy charge. He reportedly will have a significantly reduced sentence of four months, rather than 10 years if convicted at trial. It has yet to be determined whether Lewis will serve any of his sentence during the NFL season.

Lewis would rather make his headlines on the field for Baltimore, but before he came along as the fifth pick overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, Holmes was the most prolific runner in Ravens history. In four seasons with Baltimore, Holmes rushed for 2,102 yards and 10 touchdowns on 459 carries. In 1998, he became the first Ravens running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season when he gained 1,008 yards on 233 carries and had seven touchdowns.

Holmes, who has made three trips to the Pro Bowl and scored an NFL record 27 touchdowns last season, lost his starting job to then-rookie Lewis in the Ravens’ Super Bowl run in 2000, and bolted to Kansas City via free agency the following season.

With the Chiefs, the 5-foot-9, 213-pound Holmes had been nothing short of sensational. Last week in a 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans, Holmes became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher when he gained 134 yards on 32 carries. With a 7-yard run in the third quarter, Holmes passed Christian Okoye (4,897 yards).

“I think when you’re dealing with the Kansas City Chiefs and how they play football, Priest Holmes is probably 80 percent of what they do,” Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “I do understand that if you do take him out of the game you make them go do other things. Their backbone is Priest Holmes and they’re going to give him some touches. You do a good job on him the way you’re supposed to, I think it kind of alters their game plan a little bit.”

It should be easier for the Ravens to negate Holmes, who has 351 yards on 74 carries, than the Chiefs’ porous run defense to slow down Jamal Lewis. Through three games the Chiefs ranked 29th in the league against the run in allowing opponents to run for 150.3 yards a game. Conversely, the Ravens had the NFL’s second-best unit, limiting opponents to just 95.7 yards per game.

“They’re definitely going to attack,” said Holmes, who needs 59 yards to become only the fourth running back since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to reach the 5,000-yard rushing plateau with one team in 50 games or less. “They’re going to put an eight-man box and they’re going to dare you to run the ball on them, and then they’re going to say, ‘beat us on the outside.’ With what we have and our techniques and the way that we run the ball, I think we’ll definitely be able to get into lanes and have positive yards.”

Lewis, who was last season’s offensive player of the year when he produced the second-greatest rushing season (2,066 yards) in NFL history and has erased all of Holmes’ Ravens rushing marks, said he is not concerned about national acclaim.

“I don’t care, really,” Lewis said. “I’m not a rah-rah guy. I’m not the picture guy. I just put on my hard hat and go to work. As long as the defense respects me in the league, I really don’t care. Eight or nine in the box, that’s respect. That’s good enough for me.”

Note — Retired defensive end Michael McCrary will be inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s game. McCrary is the first player from the 2000 team that won the Super Bowl to earn this distinction. McCrary, who earned two trips to the Pro Bowl, played 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks and Ravens and recorded 71 sacks and 561 tackles. McCrary joins running back Earnest Byner and former owner Art Modell in the ring.

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