Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis returned to the practice field Wednesday afternoon rested and refreshed -- in body and mind. His court case has been resolved, his two-game NFL suspension has been served, and Lewis can concentrate on football without worrying about what could come next.
"That's the big thing," Lewis said. "It's done with, I can put it behind me and move on with my job and do what I do best, and that's coming out here and playing football and being with my team."
Lewis, who leads the Ravens with 494 rushing yards, was indicted on federal drug charges in February, and pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to facilitate a drug transaction on Oct. 7. He will serve prison time after the season. Lewis was suspended the past two games by the NFL for violating the league drug policy.
Lewis spent the first week of his suspension working out with his personal trainer at home, then returned to Owings Mills last week. He watched the Ravens play on TV, which was hard, he said, particularly when they lost to undefeated Philadelphia, 15-10, last Sunday.
"I wanted to play against those guys," Lewis said. "It was hard, but I got a chance to sit back and watch from the outside looking in, look at the team, evaluate it from the TV. It was pretty tough because you really want to get in there."
Now Lewis has a chance to help. The Ravens are 4-3, two games behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-1) in the AFC North, but are still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth. It's not an easy road ahead; Baltimore has to travel to the New York Jets (6-1), New England (6-1), Indianapolis (4-3) and Pittsburgh. The Ravens also must face the New York Giants (5-2) at home.
"Jamal coming back now creates our balance," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Everybody knows that when Jamal comes back, how Jamal controls the clock and how well our defense plays when Jamal controls the clock. So just with Jamal being back, right now, I think it's time to go on a nice three, four-game winning streak and really just get back to doing what we do best."
In seven games against the Browns, whom Baltimore plays on Sunday night, he has rushed for 1,100 yards and six touchdowns, and has averaged 6.9 yards per carry. Last year, Lewis ran for a league-record 295 yards against Cleveland on Sept. 14, and amassed 500 rushing yards in two games against the Browns.
But the Browns held Lewis to a season-low 57 yards on 20 carries in the season-opener, a 20-3 Cleveland win. "They didn't do anything schematically different, not one thing," Coach Brian Billick said. "They played everybody the same place they always play 'em, just like we do, just like everybody else does. They tackled better. That was their big point. You can't not tackle well against Jamal Lewis, that was the thing in the two games in 2003 that they kept harping on that they had to do better, and they did better in the first game" this season.
Lewis said that he doesn't have anything to prove to the Browns; he is just happy to be on the field.
"I'm just trying to come back and get into the groove," Lewis said. "This the first game back, it just happens to be Cleveland, we just have to go out and do better than we did the first time."
Ravens Notes: Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens said during his weekly news conference that he received several hate e-mails through his Web site, asking how he could "embarrass" Ray Lewis by imitating the linebacker's dance after a touchdown on Sunday. Owens also wondered why he receives so much negative attention for his behavior when he has never had any off-field problems.
"It's discouraging at times that I get labeled and put in that same mold and that I'm the worst guy that ever put on a uniform in the NFL," Owens said. "You have a guy like Ray Lewis who I thought he was pretty much my friend. This is a guy, double-murder case and he could have been in jail, but it seems like the league embraces a guy like that but I'm going out scoring touchdowns and having fun and I'm the bad guy. So I don't understand it, I really don't." . . .
Tight end Todd Heap (ankle) and left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) are listed as questionable for Sunday, and neither practiced Wednesday. . . . Quarterback Kyle Boller (back) and Ray Lewis (knee) are probable, and Lewis missed a portion of practice.