J. Lewis adamant he can play entire season

Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has struck an optimistic stance on whether he can handle the logistics of attending his federal drug conspiracy trial in Atlanta during the week and play football on the weekends.<br><br>

Lewis' trial on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine and using a cellular phone in violation of federal law has been set for Nov. 1. It's estimated his trial will last two weeks, during which the Ravens play the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 7 and the New York Jets on Nov. 14.

"I feel like I can still go in and play as long as I know my game plan and what I will be facing during the game," said Lewis after rushing for 14 yards on six carries during the Ravens' 24-0 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium. "It's not like I will be gone for a whole week or something like that. I'll make it my point so that I can handle my job. I will be here. That is all I can tell you."

Regardless of whether Lewis could fulfill the tall order of functioning optimally in games without a full week of practice amidst a high-profile trial, legal strategy might eventually override his desire for double-duty.

While several criminal defense lawyers said that the Pro Bowl runner might not be required by the presiding judge to attend the entire trial, they wouldn't recommend he exercise that right.

"I can guarantee you that Jamal's lawyers, Ed Garland and Don Samuel, would insist that Jamal be there everyday," Baltimore attorney Ron Cherry said. "Otherwise, it could look like he isn't interested in the outcome, which could be perceived negatively by the jury. You want to take it very seriously to create a good impression.

"Jamal is a favorable defendant. He's still kind of the toast of that town. They love him as a hometown boy who has made good. I just hope he doesn't miss too many games."

Lewis, 25, faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years if convicted and the alleged conspiracy is found to involve more than five kilograms of cocaine.

Baltimore attorney Stephen Tully said defendants can waive their right to appear in court, but he wouldn't advise doing so.

"That's not a wise thing," Tully said. "In long cases, the defendant may not need to be there for legal arguments or motion hearings. Whenever the jury is there, you need to be there to show you're not dismissing the case as unimportant.

"The jurors are spending their valuable time, so they expect you to be there, too. It shows respect."

Lewis has pleaded innocent, is free on a $500,000 bond and can travel anywhere in the country.

"I wanted it to happen sooner than later," said Lewis, who gained a league-high 2,066 yards last season. "For me, I just want to get it out of the way."

Lewis acknowledged that the Ravens have no set plan in place to account for his trial schedule.

"One thing Coach [Brian Billick] instills in us is being able to handle things as they come along," Lewis said. "Not everything rolls the way you want it to."

Billick has remained skeptical as to whether it makes sense for Lewis to travel from Atlanta to Baltimore in a manner akin to NBA star Kobe Bryant's situation.

"I have no clues about it," Billick said. "I don't know what the course is going to be. There's some finality to it. That's great and we'll deal with it."

Billick is relatively unconcerned about how Lewis will withstand the stress of a trial after playing last year aware of the FBI investigation.

"He dealt with this mentally all last year. He knew this was pending, the court situation," Billick told the Associated Press. "So if anybody's prepared to deal with it, it's Jamal. Based on what I've seen, his mind seems to be right and he'll do just that."

In 2000, murder charges were dropped against Ray Lewis, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, prior to the Ravens winning a Super Bowl title.

"It's going to be extremely hard for Jamal, for everyone, but his teammates are going to be behind him all the way," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "We're going to find out how things go down."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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