Ravens weekly wrap-up

Ravens weekly wrap-up

Ravens coach Brian Billick officially named Jamal Lewis the team's starting running back. According to Billick, Lewis would remain the Ravens' featured running back "with the idea he returns to the form that we're familiar with."

There had been questions whether Lewis would enter training camp as the undisputed starter when the Ravens signed Mike Anderson. General manager Ozzie Newsome seemed to favor a competition between Lewis and Anderson but said the decision would be left to the coaching staff.

"You don't preclude Mike Anderson and the success he's had from forcing himself into that rotation or a primary role," Billick said. "One of the things about Mike Anderson is he'll do whatever you need him to do. He will be the consummate role player."

Although Anderson's disposition has never been a concern, the same cannot be said of Lewis. Over the past two seasons, Lewis has voiced displeasure over his number of carries, which had dipped below 20 a game.

Billick doesn't foresee that as a problem this season even with the addition of Anderson. He estimated that Lewis would receive about two-thirds of the carries.

"We don't want to put Jamal out there on a 350- to 380-carry year," Billick said. "That's not in his best interest. I think Jamal recognizes that. Every back wants the ball but by year's end, it's 'Oh, I wish I didn't have this many.' Mike gives us the opportunity to roll him in because he does the same things Jamal does for us."

Of the two running backs, Lewis received a richer deal. He signed a three-year, $26 million contract that is essentially a one-year, $6 million agreement.

Anderson's deal is a longer term one -- a four-year, $8 million contract -- but only included a $2 million signing bonus.
In handing the job to Lewis, Billick seemed confident that the franchise's leading rusher will bounce back from last season, when he gained a career-low 906 yards.

He admitted to being "overly optimistic maybe to the point of being naive" that Lewis would have a strong season last year after having ankle surgery and spending four months in federal prison.

"I was probably as guilty of that as anybody," Billick said. "But we've been down this road before with Jamal. Whether it was college or the 2003 season, it's the second year after the injury when Jamal comes back."

Lewis, who is six years younger than Anderson, has had a more prolific numbers over the past six seasons (6,669 yards to 3,822 yards). But Anderson out-gained Lewis last season (1,014 yards to 906 yards) despite playing in the Denver Broncos' running back-by-committee system.

Lewis' rushing totals and touchdowns have decreased each of the past two seasons since gaining 2,066 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns in 2003.

In his introductory news conference, Anderson said he was assured he would be able to compete for the Ravens' starting running back job.

"I assumed that I was going to come in and compete," Anderson said. "Nothing is guaranteed in this business. That's all I've been doing since my rookie year."

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Ravens face an unfavorable three-game road stretch this summer, playing their final two preseason games away from home and their regular-season opener on the road.

In the schedule announced at the NFL owners meetings, the Ravens wrap up the preseason at the Minnesota Vikings and at the Washington Redskins. Because the Orioles are playing at home on the NFL's kickoff weekend, the Ravens will start the regular season on the road.

It is only the third time in the Ravens' 11-year history -- 2000 and 2002 were the others -- that they will end the preseason with two away games and begin the regular season on the road.

"That's always a problem; it seems like we always start [the regular season] on the road," coach Brian Billick said after the meetings concluded. "Three games in a row is a challenge. But the fact that it's the end (of the preseason), they can recoup a little bit. D.C. is also like a home game. I'm comfortable with it."

--The NFL owners meetings ended with no progress on the Ravens' quarterback front.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said he spoke with agent David Dunn, who represents Kerry Collins and Joey Harrington, but indicated nothing surfaced from the meeting.

Asked if he expected to pursue a trade with the Detroit Lions for Harrington, Newsome said, "Not at this point."

The Ravens received an NFL-high four compensatory draft picks, but none ranked higher than the fourth round. Newsome said there was a reason why they weren't rewarded with a higher one.

"You have to realize that playing time is involved [in the formula], and Gary [Baxter] and Ed [Hartwell] both got hurt," he said.

--Of the handful of NFL rule changes approved yesterday, Billick didn't seem to favor the one that stopped a rushing defensive player from forcibly hitting a quarterback below the knees.

"There are real downsides that you worry about as a coach," he said. "But the trump card is you're trying to keep a vulnerable from being more vulnerable. That's a compelling argument."

--Billick was a supporter of allowing a defensive player to wear a radio helmet connected to coaches on the sideline. That proposal didn't pass because 11 teams voted against it.

"If nothing else, we have a real good definitive list [of] who's good at stealing defensive (hand) signals," Billick said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to talk to (general manager) Ozzie (Newsome) about that one. What's his usual saying, 'If he's the highest-rated guy on the board, we'll take him.'" -- Coach Brian Billick on whether the Ravens will draft a quarterback in the first round this year.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
TEAM NEEDS
1. Safety: The free-agent market for safeties has begun to thin out. The Ravens could look to the draft for a replacement for Will Demps, who signed with the New York Giants.
2. Quarterback: The Ravens ideally want a veteran who can at least compete with Kyle Boller for the starting job. The Ravens could either pursue Kerry Collins in free agency or wait to see if Steve McNair gets cut by the Tennessee Titans.
3. Wide receiver: This group is set with starters Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. But the Ravens don't have a legitimate third wideout. They need to find someone more proven than Clarence Moore and Devard Darling.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Dale Carter; WR Randy Hymes; WR Patrick Johnson; LB Tommy Polley; CB Deion Sanders; RB Jamel White; S Chad Williams; QB Anthony Wright.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): LS Drew Caylor; DT Gary Gibson; CB Cash Mouton.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: PK Aaron Elling; NT Aubrayo Franklin; FB Ovie Mughelli; OT Tony Pashos.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Robb Butler; LB Dennis Haley; DT Cedric Hilliard; CB Zach Norton; CB Evan Oglesby; LB Mike Smith; DE Bernard Thomas; CB B.J. Ward; LB Zac Woodfin.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: DE Jarret Johnson; LS Matt Katula; RB Jamal Lewis; OG Brian Rimpf; RB B.J. Sams; LB Bart Scott; RB Musa Smith; C Thatcher Szalay; TE Daniel Wilcox.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Mike Anderson; DT Justin Bannan; CB Corey Ivy; DE Trevor Pryce; LB Gary Stills.
PLAYERS LOST: LB Peter Boulware; OT Orlando Brown; S Will Demps; TE Darnell Dinkins; NT Maake Kemoeatu; RB Chester Taylor; DE Tony Weaver; P Dave Zastudil.

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