Billick expects a few key delays

OWINGS MILLS – Because of legal obligations and injury issues, newly-bearded Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick anticipates a holding pattern for a handful of veterans as training camp begins. With players reporting to Westminster on Sunday and the first practice set for Monday at McDaniel College, running back Jamal Lewis will complete two months in a halfway house Tuesday. Lewis is slated to report to camp Thursday to work with trainers prior to starting practice Aug. 8.

After his tumultuous off-season, Lewis hasn't been in a football environment for seven months.
"Jamal is in great shape," Billick said of the 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year who underwent ankle surgery before serving four months in a Florida federal prison for a drug crime. "His situation dictates that our plan is to give him Wednesday to regroup and initially he'll be in a rehab mode through the weekend. "This is by design not because of where he is physically, health-wise right now, but just the fact that when he gets out he needs some regrouping time."
As expected, tight end Todd Heap will miss the first few weeks of practice rehabilitating his ankle and shoulder after a pair of surgeries. Heap missed 10 games last season with a severe ankle sprain.
Billick hopes Heap will be back in pads the week prior to the Ravens' second preseason game, which is Aug. 20 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Todd's rehab has gone very well," Billick said. "Todd's pretty much on target."
Running back Musa Smith is still recovering from a gruesome broken leg last season that could place him on the physically unable to perform list to begin the regular season. Smith broke his leg in December against the Dallas Cowboys during one of safety Roy Williams' patented horse-collar tackles.
"Musa Smith is probably my biggest concern," Billick said. "The rehab has gone very, very well, but we have to see. To know exactly, we'll have to see how it responds. It's just a matter of time as opposed to how strong the knee is or what the rehab has been."
Veteran nickel back Deion Sanders, who turns 38 Aug. 9, is a definite question mark for the start of camp after undergoing toe surgery this winter.
Sanders didn't practice with the team during minicamps after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract that could pay him as much as $4 million with incentives that depend heavily on playing time. Sanders intercepted three passes last season after ending a three-year retirement, but was limited to nine games due to hamstring and foot injuries.
"We'll have to see exactly how far he's come with the toe," Billick said. "He may very well start in more of a conditioning mode. The key for us is to get Deion to the season healthy. The first week may or may not include him being on the field."
NOTES: While the Ravens have four remaining draft picks to sign, including wide receiver Mark Clayton (first round), linebacker Dan Cody (second round), offensive tackle Adam Terry (second round) and center Jason Brown (fourth round), Billick expressed optimism about avoiding holdouts.
The Ravens have had a holdout every year dating back to 2001.
Under the slotting principle as the No. 22 overall pick, Clayton is likely to receive a contract slightly less than Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Matt   Jones (21st) and more than Oakland Raiders cornerback Fabian Washington (23rd).
Washington agreed to a five-year, $7.8 million contract Tuesday that reportedly includes $5 million in signing bonus and guaranteed money. The Washington deal could offer a framework for Clayton's contract.
Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, last year's No. 22 pick, received a five-year, $7.7 million deal.
"I think when we report with the nature of who the agents are I'm very optimistic that Mark and Dan and all our draft choices will be in camp," Billick said. ‘It's always 11th hour. Hopefully from an administrative standpoint, it doesn't get pushed around to the point where it costs them a practice or two." …
The Ravens' single-game ticket sales starts Friday at 10 a.m., and the team expects to sell out eight regular-season games that day. The sales are through TicketMaster, not the M&T Bank Stadium box office. The Ravens said they have sold 65,000 season tickets for their 70,107-seat stadium. For more information, call 410-547-SEAT.
In addition being a longtime contributor to, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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