- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

One day after he pleaded guilty to drug charges in federal court, the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis for two games and fined him the equivalent of paychecks for those two games plus two additional games, or about $760,000.

Lewis will play in tomorrow night’s nationally televised game against the Washington Redskins but will miss games against the Buffalo Bills (Oct.24) and at the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct.31. The Ravens are off next week.

Lewis said he will not appeal the suspension. As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the NFL Players Association had not been contacted by Lewis or his representatives. On Thursday in Atlanta, Lewis pleaded guilty to setting up a drug deal by using a cell phone. Lewis’ attorneys said they would not fight the league’s ruling, but if the NFL Players Association wanted to appeal the suspension, they wouldn’t stand in its way.

“I will accept it, whatever they give me,” Lewis said yesterday on the Ravens Web site before he knew the league’s ruling. “However many games I have to sit, I will accept it. [The resolution] is a load off of my shoulders. I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I can just get on with my life and play football.”

Lewis, 25, was accused of helping set up a cocaine deal for childhood friend Angelo Jackson during phone conversations with a government informant in the summer of 2000, before Lewis was under contract with the Ravens. The FBI said Lewis and Jackson met the informant at an Atlanta restaurant. Jackson supposedly went on to make the deal with the informant without further assistance from Lewis, who has agreed to testify at Jackson’s trial if called as a witness.

As part of his plea agreement, Lewis will be sentenced Jan.26 to four months in prison and two months in a halfway house. Under the deal, Lewis also must perform 500 hours of community service. Lewis could have received 10 years in prison if convicted of drug conspiracy and attempted cocaine possession charges. His trial was set for Nov.1.

“You have needlessly sullied your own reputation and reinforced unfair and negative public perceptions of NFL players generally,” NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote in his decision to suspend Lewis. “The consequences of your poor judgment include incarceration, suspension from the NFL, and the loss of $761,000 in salary. The long-term damage to your own reputation may well be even greater.”

Lewis, who has five days to appeal the suspension, will play for the second straight week on national television but will miss the game against the Eagles, who are one of the better teams on the Ravens’ schedule.

Chester Taylor (21 carries for 121 yards) and Musa Smith, who has not had a rushing attempt in the first four games, will fill in for Lewis during the suspension.

Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards last season, the second-highest total in NFL history. He has 378 yards on 77 carries with four touchdowns this season and is the AFC’s sixth-leading rusher.

“Even though he has dealt with this very well, I can’t help but imagine that this is a bit of a relief and it lets him free his mind up totally now because there is a definition,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “That has to be a relief rather than the ‘what ifs’ or ‘what could happens.’

“There is a lot left to happen for him. Now is not necessarily the time to comment on it. You got a sense of the entire circumstances and it gives you reason to pause and look at exactly what happened and why it happened. We will discuss that at the appropriate time later on. Right now it should be clear-cut to everyone involved with the facts and what happened.”

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