OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was suspended for two games without pay by the NFL for
violating the league's substance abuse policy, one day after pleading guilty to trying to set up a drug deal four years ago.
Lewis will not appeal the punishment and will miss those games
in late October, the Ravens said. He plans to play Sunday night at
Lewis also was fined two weeks' salary, $380,500, in the
decision issued Friday by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. That
means Lewis will lose a total of $761,000.
"You have needlessly sullied your own reputation and reinforced
unfair and negative public perceptions of NFL players generally,"
"The long-term damage to your own reputation may well be even
A drug-related legal violation is grounds for league discipline
under the NFL's substance abuse policy.
A player has five days to appeal a suspension. Though Lewis does
not plan to appeal, Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said, he will use
the five days to consult with his lawyers, allowing him to play
against the Redskins. Baltimore is off the following weekend.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, he will not miss any
playing time while serving his sentence of four months in federal
prison and two months in a halfway house. The sentence will start
after the regular season ends in January and conclude before the
2005 season begins in September.
Lewis missed practice Thursday while in Atlanta and rejoined the
team Friday. Before practice, he spoke excitedly about putting his
problems behind him.
"It's a load off my shoulders. Now I can continue on," he
said. "I don't have to worry about that anymore, and I can just
get on with my life and play football."
Lewis pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to try to set up a
drug transaction in the summer of 2000 in Atlanta. He knew an NFL
suspension would follow his plea, and he was prepared to accept his
"It's over. Something happened, I have to suffer the
consequences, and that's what I'm doing," he said. "The big
picture is done with. I'm happy that everything is over with. So, I
move on and do what I have to do on the football field."
Lewis did plenty on the field last season, running for 2,066
yards -- the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. But
his off-field problems will put an indelible stamp on his effort to
come up with a suitable encore.
Lewis will be pressed to defend his NFL rushing title, and his
absence could end up costing the Ravens a chance to repeat as AFC
North champions and return to the playoffs. But Lewis risked
receiving a minimum 10-year prison sentence if he went ahead with
his court case in Atlanta and was convicted.
"As long as my career is all right, I'm all right," he said.
"I'll be here next season and this season, so it's over with."
Before his plea, Lewis faced the possibility of missing time
during a trial that was slated to begin Nov. 1.
"The fact that we don't have to deal with this any further is a
good thing," coach Brian Billick said.
"Even though he has dealt with this very well, I can't help but
imagine that it's a bit of a relief. It allows him to free his mind
up totally now because there is definition. That's got to be a
positive thing, rather than the what ifs, when will it happen, what
could happen; that definition should allow him to be relaxed and do
"We can't lose any productivity," Smith said. "Me and Chester
are ready, and we're going to hold it down while he's out."
Lewis was accused of trying to help broker a cocaine deal for
co-defendant Angelo Jackson, a childhood friend, during
conversations with a government informant. Charges against Jackson
Lewis agreed to testify at Jackson's trial, still set for Nov.
1. By that time, Lewis will have completed his NFL suspension. He
expects to work out during his absence and reclaim his starting
"I have a good work ethic. I think I've proven that," he said.
"From a physical standpoint, I'll miss something. But as far as
anything else, I don't think I'll miss a beat."
Lewis said he hopes others will benefit from his mistake, which
occurred before he played his first NFL game.
"Watch your friends and who you have around you," he said.
"That's the big picture of this whole thing."