Ravens' J. Lewis clarifies his position

OWINGS MILLS -- In an attempt to hurdle a controversy he created, Baltimore Ravens star running back Jamal Lewis claimed his complaints about not getting the football enough were simply misunderstood. <br><br> One point that is crystal-clear is that the Ravens have the last-ranked offense in the NFL.

The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year griped after rushing for 81 yards on 22 carries in the Ravens' 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night as Baltimore (5-3) passed on nine of its first 12 offensive plays.

On Wednesday, though, Lewis called the situation a mere misunderstanding. He chalked up his comments to frustration over not being involved initially in the game plan during his first game back after serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.

"Sometimes you can say some things and you can take whatever you want to take from it," Lewis said. "I don't think it was meant to be, 'Oh, Jamal wants more carries like Keyshawn Johnson. Give him the ball.' It's not like that.

"I just want to be able to do what I have to do to help us. Utilize all my talents and take us to where we're not in a three-point game or be behind. I just want to go out and win and be comfortable rather than give my dad heart problems."

The Ravens have the last-ranked passing game overall and the eighth-ranked running game. Lewis leads Baltimore with 575 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 127 carries.

A burly, 5-foot-11, 245-pound runner, Lewis rushed for a league-high 2,066 yards last season. Among the top 10 rushers in the AFC, Lewis ranks seventh in average carries per game with 21.1 per contest, which is down about three carries from last season.

"I like a balanced attack," Lewis said. "That's the only thing I've been stressing since I've been here. That's really what I want to happen."
The Ravens had the lowest-ranked passing game last season, too. Lately, they have been attempting to establish second-year quarterback Kyle Boller more often to develop his passing touch.

Against Cleveland, Boller threw on Baltimore's first four offensive plays and on 24 of the Ravens' first 40 offensive plays. Last year's first-round draft pick from Cal passed for a season-high 223 yards on 38 attempts the previous week in a 15-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Against the Browns, Lewis scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard run with 7:03 remaining. Meanwhile, Boller attempted 30 passes for a total of 142 yards on 17 completions with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I don't need that many [carries], I just need enough to get by with a win, that's all," Lewis said. "That whole thing was kind of blown out of what it was supposed to be.

"It was just a whole misunderstanding. In down times, every good playmaker feels like if the ball is in their hands, they can make something happen. That's basically it."

The Ravens' offense has been hampered by injuries to Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, who will miss his seventh consecutive game Sunday against the New York Jets with an ankle injury, and All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. Ogden is listed as questionable after pulling his hamstring and missed the last two games.

Boller has completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 1,101 yards, three touchdowns, six interceptions and a 65.9 passer rating.

The Ravens rank last in total yards per game (257.4), last in passing net yards per game (123.8), 31st in passing net yards per play (5.62), last in first downs per game (14.8), are tied for last in fourth-down efficiency (0-for-4), have converted 32.7 percent of third downs and rank 23rd in points per game (19.25).

Boller, 23, has drawn criticism for his lack of accuracy on deep and intermediate passes and his fundamentals and mechanics while other young quarterbacks like the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Byron Leftwich have thrived.

"I will continue to try to become a better quarterback," Boller said. "I made strides the first eight weeks. I continue to work hard each week and learn new things. Hopefully, by Week 16 we'll be sprinting in.
"I don't read what you all write or anything like that. I have a job and I work hard every day. I tell myself I will be a good quarterback and I know I'm a good quarterback. As long as I continue to work hard and continue to get better, I think good things will happen."

While Boller learns on the job, Lewis is expected to shoulder a heavier load in the second half of the season.

Plus, Baltimore can always count on a defense that ranks first in points allowed (14.2), opponents' passer rating (62.4), opponents' plays of 20 yards or more (18), opponents' yards per play in the red zone (1.62) and interception returns of 20 yards or more (7).

As for the mini-flap spurred by his post-game frustration, Lewis said he wasn't all that surprised that his remarks started such a stir.

"I try to tell you the truth, but sometimes you have to beat around and can't really get drawn into a lot of things," the All-Pro runner said. "I think it surprised everyone else."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and ravensinsider.com

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