OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens expect Jamal Lewis
to play Sunday night against the Washington Redskins. However,
they're already preparing for the possibility an NFL suspension
would take away their star running back for up to four games.
Lewis probably will be suspended, and perhaps fined, by the NFL
if he pleads guilty Thursday to drug charges in Atlanta, as
"A drug-related violation is grounds for discipline from the
league," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.
The Ravens figure to hear from the league about a disciplinary
measure during their bye week, which begins after the Washington
"I don't know, but I would guess there might be some resolution
during the bye week," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I would
certainly think so. And once we have that resolution, then we can
plan with a little more detail."
Under the deal being considered, Lewis would plead guilty to
using a cell phone in violation of federal law and serve a sentence
of six months after the 2005 season. Once the plea is on the
record, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue can move ahead with his
review of the case.
"They will set the parameters for how we go forward, and under
what conditions legally," Billick said, referring to the legal
system. "The next part of the process is obviously what the league
wants to do."
Lewis will miss practice Thursday while in Atlanta federal
court, but Billick intends to have him back for Friday's practice
and in the backfield Sunday night when Baltimore (2-2) ties to
bounce back from Monday's 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I'm comfortable that he'll have enough time to be ready for
Sunday's game," Billick said. "It's our understanding that it's
very unlikely that there will be any judgment with regards to what
the league chooses to do that would impact this game.
"Beyond that, I don't think anything has changed from how we
originally planned to deal with these circumstances."
The Ravens figured they would lose Lewis during his trial, which
was scheduled to begin Nov. 1. Now, they anticipate losing him for
from one to four weeks, beginning with the Oct. 24 home game
against the Buffalo Bills.
Regardless of the length of the suspension, Billick will summon
backups Chester Taylor and Musa Smith to run in Lewis' place.
Taylor has 121 yards rushing on 21 carries this season. Smith has
not run the ball, but has seen extensive action on special teams.
"The good thing is that both are actively involved," Billick
The Ravens remain steadfast in support of Lewis, their most
prolific offensive star and a soft-spoken individual who last
season ran for 2,066 yards -- the second-highest single season total
in NFL history.
"I would suggest that you all wait and see what the
circumstances are before you rush to judgment, because there are
some particular circumstances of which you'll see why we hold firm
to our belief in Jamal," Billick said.
"This was a 20-year-old, a junior in college four years ago,
that had a serious lapse in judgment," said Billick, adding the
lapse was not to the degree that people believe.
Now, four years later, Lewis has managed to keep his attention
on football despite legal problems that could have landed him a
stiff prison sentence.
"To watch his focus in meetings, the way he interacts with his
teammates, the way he conducts himself out of practice, you have to
be impressed," Billick said. "We all have things going on in our
lives, but this is quite serious, that he's been very focused
through it all. That's been very impressive."