Ravens will take on Bengals without J. Lewis

OWINGS MILLS -- Star runner Jamal Lewis' bruising presence won't be part of the Baltimore Ravens' offensive equation against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. <br><br> "I'm not playing," Lewis said Wednesday outside the locker room as Baltimore (7-4) began preparations for the Bengals (5-6) at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lewis is officially listed as doubtful on the injury report, denoting a 25-percent chance of availability. He didn't practice and will miss his second consecutive game, barring a rapid recovery over the next few days.

Bereft of their leading rusher, the Ravens will be forced to start Chester Taylor again.

"I have no clue what those reports mean," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Check with the training staff and they'll tell you who's up, who's down, and on Sunday, I'll see who plays."

Apparently, it won't be Lewis.

The Ravens (7-4) had the top-ranked rushing offense in the league last season as Lewis gained a league-high 2,066 yards. Lewis leads the team with 651 rushing yards and five touchdown runs, picking up a season-high 186 yards in a 23-9 win over the Bengals on Sept. 26 at Paul Brown Stadium.

Baltimore has slipped to 14th in the league in rushing (116.5), averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. Last season, the Ravens averaged a league-high 167.1 yards rushing per game and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

When asked when he might be able to practice, Lewis said: "I don't know. I'm day-to-day."

Since Lewis' two-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy ended, the Ravens have gained 106 rushing yards against the Cleveland Browns, 76 against the New York Jets, 59 against the Dallas Cowboys and 77 against the New England Patriots.

"If you want to win with this team, we have to run the ball well," offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "Obviously we would be a better team with Jamal because he's a great back, but we'll see. We believe in Chester because he's a good back and we'll do our best."

The Ravens were beginning to make some headway against the Patriots with Taylor running over hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison and finishing with 61 yards on 16 carries. Running the football only 20 times and controlling the football for just 24:06 against New England was a major difference in the game, too.

Newcomer Jamel White and fullback Alan Ricard will be asked to increase their contribution during Lewis' absence.

"At some point, Alan has to be ready to be the featured back because of the depth and Jamel White is still learning the system," Billick said. "He's having to do more."

Meanwhile, the Bengals rank 30th in the NFL against the run, allowing 137.4 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Lewis had a 75-yard touchdown jaunt, cutting back against the grain in September in Cincinnati.

"Keep tackling better and we don't hold onto the ball more on offense, that's the biggest thing that affects your run defense," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Our yards per snap aren't that bad, but we've allowed some big plays.

"Other than that, we've played pretty well against the run, but in those plays we missed tackles and we don't get the guy on the ground and that caused a big play."

In a 58-48 win over the Cleveland Browns last week, the Bengals allowed only 76 rushing yards. That was primarily because the Browns were too busy passing for 381 yards and five touchdown passes.

"This is a game that they have to prove themselves," Taylor said of the Bengals' defense. "They are going to come out and play tough. They are going to be ready to play. I'm not going to take their defense lightly, no matter what the stat sheet said last weekend."

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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