December 21, 2014

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Browns’ Lewis still has something to prove to old team

BEREA — Jamal Lewis answers questions about his former boss with the quiet confidence that accompanies a full resume. After four 1,000-yard seasons, a 2,000-yard season, a record 295-yard game and a Super Bowl trophy, he has nothing left to prove.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to run the ball down coach Brian Billick’s throat when the Baltimore Ravens visit the lakefront Sunday.
All of Lewis’ gaudy numbers were posted during his seven years in Baltimore. His strength and speed, combined with a historically good defense, led the Ravens to the Super Bowl after the 2000 season. But, according to Lewis, Billick abandoned the power running game.
“I have nothing against him, but when it comes to my career and the things that we’ve accomplished there and in the past, it kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth a little bit,” Lewis said. “But I really didn’t want to come back, honestly.”
Billick was a record-setting offensive coordinator before he got the Ravens job. He was reliant on the defense to win the Super Bowl and, Lewis thinks, has been trying to get back to his roots.
“They pass the football, that’s what they want to do. He’s a great coordinator,” Lewis said. “I wanted to leave the year before. But things kinda worked out, so I went back.”
Lewis isn’t asking for sympathy. The Ravens gave him a rich, new contract in 2006. But when he was due a $5 million roster bonus in March, the Ravens released him. Lewis would do it all again.
“For $6 million? Yeah, I think I would’ve signed back with them,” he said.
Lewis expected his numbers to go down as the offense continued to move away from the inside running game, and they did — 1,132 yards, 3.6 average. A nagging ankle injury didn’t help his production.
Even though the Browns were quick to pounce on Lewis, signing him to a one-year, $3.5 million deal, a drop-off in production since his huge year in 2003 had outsiders questioning how much life he had left. The 216-yard outburst vs. the Bengals in Week 2 answered the doubts.
“It validated what he knew about himself,” backup running back Jason Wright said. “He knew that he hadn’t lost it, as people said. He knew that he still had a second gear that people said he didn’t have.
“It’s one thing to know it in your head. It’s another thing when it materializes and all your faith and your confidence is justified. And that’s exactly what happened for him.”
The highlight of his re-emergence vs. Cincinnati was a 66-yard touchdown off left tackle in which he made a nifty move in the backfield, then outran the defense.
“It looked like there was a guy ahead of him and he passed him up. He’s still got it,” right tackle Kevin Shaffer. “He can run through people, he can run around people and he can run past people.”
Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis was in Baltimore when Jamal Lewis arrived.
“I believe Jamal is still one of the top five backs in this business,” Ray Lewis said on a conference call. He agreed that Jamal got a raw deal when he was let go by the Ravens. “The organization is going to look out for them before they look out for the player. They said, ‘We can’t use you any more, so goodbye.’
“As a friend you sit back and say to yourself, ‘That’s B.S.’ You don’t ever want to see Jamal get away.”
Ray Lewis is the physical and emotional leader of the Ravens. Jamal Lewis described himself as a follower during their days together, but said that’s changed with his address.
“The roles are flipped where I have to step up as a leader and kind of lead these young guys to where we’re trying to go,” he said.
Despite Lewis’ casual demeanor about facing his former team, Browns coach Romeo Crennel knows there’s a fire burning.
“Deep down, I think he would like to have a career-type game,” he said.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.