Ravens' J. Lewis out against the Patriots

OWINGS MILLS -- In yet another obstacle for Jamal Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens' once formidable running game, last year's NFL Offensive Player of the Year is out for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. <br><br> Bereft of Lewis because of a sprained right ankle, Baltimore (7-3) will start Chester Taylor -- the only healthy running back except for newcomer Jamel White -- against the defending Super Bowl champions.

"He's definitely going to be out this week," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Lewis. "Bottom line, they are optimistic that he could be ready to go next week. We'll see."

Without Lewis against New England (9-1) and its dominant front seven, the Ravens will rely heavily on Taylor in his third start and resurgent quarterback Kyle Boller.

"We will go out there with Chester and win games," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "We have no other choice. What are we going to do?"

A darting, undersized back who runs with excellent body lean, Taylor has rushed for 370 yards. The Ravens have dropped to 13th in rushing overall, averaging 120.4 yards.

Taylor gained 89 and 79 yards, respectively, when he started against the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles during Lewis' two-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.

"I'm just going to go out there like I did last time," Taylor said. "I don't feel pressure. I just like to take advantage of the opportunities when I get out there."

Even though the Ravens signed White to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum and gave him a crash course on the offense Wednesday, he's unlikely to be utilized Sunday.

"To throw them in there probably wouldn't be prudent," Billick said.

White, a former Cleveland Browns backup, will only have four days of practice to prepare.

"Not being here from training camp to now, I've got to really hone in on what they have to say and study," said White, who has career totals of 1,344 rushing yards and 170 catches for 1,290 yards. "I believe it could happen."

Billick indicated that fullback Harold Morrow, whose primary duty is acting as the wedge-buster in kick coverage, will back up Taylor. Morrow's career-high totals are 67 yards and 13 catches with the Minnesota Vikings in 2001.

"I have a few moves," Morrow said. "If they don't work, I can always run somebody over. I'm mainly a special teams guy, but who's to say I can't play running back?"

For Lewis, this has been a nightmare year.

After rushing for 2,066 yards last season, Lewis was indicted in a federal drug conspiracy case in Atlanta. He eventually pleaded guilty Oct. 7 to using a cellular phone to set up a drug transaction and will serve four months in prison and two months in a halfway house after the season.

Lewis was suspended for two games without pay by the NFL along with an additional two weeks salary for nearly $761,000 in fines.
Lewis has only eclipsed 100 yards twice this season after having a dozen 100-yard games in 2003. He ranks 18th in the NFL in rushing yards with 651.He wasn't made available for comment Wednesday.

"He's just praying, working through it," Taylor said regarding Lewis' state of mind. "He was out a couple of weeks and now he has this injury. He's just got to work back through it and try to get back on a roll."

The Ravens are also without Musa Smith following a gruesome broken leg that sent him to injured reserve. And Taylor rushed for only 33 yards on 15 carries on Sunday.

Since Lewis' suspension ended, the Ravens were limited to 106 rushing yards against the Browns, 76 yards against the Jets and a season-low 59 yards against the Cowboys.

Now, Taylor's workload will be expanded. He had 21 and 18 carries against the Bills and Eagles.

"The biggest difference is, unlike before when we went through this, Chester's going to have to carry most of the load," Billick said. "That's the big challenge for Chester against a very sound and physical defense."

New England allows 106.6 rushing yards per contest, features 340-pound nose guards Keith Traylor and Vince Wilfork, and surrendered just 64 rushing yards in Monday's win over Kansas City.
Boller has thrived while the running game has languished, but now he'll have to battle the potential confusion New England coach Bill Belichick is capable of creating.

Over the last four games, Boller has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 810 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

"We've dealt with adversity all year," Boller said. "It's tough not having Jamal in there, but Chester is going to have to step up and make plays.

"This is a huge game for me. I want to play smart, not turn the ball over and make good decisions."

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

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