More Ravens' camp notes - J.Lewis fails physical

WESTMINSTER -- Jamal Lewis is on the cusp of playing football again after an off-season of legal turmoil despite not passing his physical Monday at McDaniel College. The major hurdles for Lewis to overcome are health and rust issues after reporting to Westminster after meeting with Maryland probation officials to fulfill the final obligation of his federal drug sentence.

Although the 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year didn't pass his physical Monday at McDaniel College after undergoing ankle surgery this winter, trainer Bill Tessendorf said he's nonetheless encouraged about Lewis' medical outlook.

"Technically, he failed his physical, but the ankle looks good," Tessendorf said Monday night. "Initially, he would be on the physically unable to perform list, which we can take him off anytime.

"Jamal worked very hard [Monday] and now we want to see how it responds before we clear him. We want to make sure that the ankle doesn't swell up. He's in very good shape, so I'm optimistic. We'll just have to wait and see."

Lewis spent four months incarcerated in a Pensacola, Fla., federal prison camp and then served two months in an Atlanta halfway house after pleading guilty to using a cellular phone to facilitate a cocaine deal.

The former Pro Bowl runner arrived in Baltimore on Sunday night, spending the night at his home before reporting Monday afternoon. He pulled into the team hotel in his tan Hummer sport utility vehicle and didn't comment. He's scheduled to meet with reporters today.

Ravens coach Brian Billick predicted that Lewis could be in pads as soon as Wednesday.

"Contrary to your inside source, he's going to play this week," Billick said. "He's doing great."

Wearing a gray T-shirt and black shorts, Lewis was a bystander at the afternoon practice and appeared to be in optimum condition.

With Lewis back in a football environment for the first time in seven months, quarterback Kyle Boller described the centerpiece of the Ravens' offense as an extremely determined athlete.

Lewis was limited to 1,006 yards in 2004 as he dealt with his legal situation, served a two-game NFL suspension for violating their drug policy and struggled with injuries.

"I'm very excited, Jamal is the best running back out there," said Boller, who visited Lewis in Atlanta two weeks ago. "He looks great and I could tell he has the look in his eyes. He is ready to play football again."

TRAINING ROOM: Nickel back Dale Carter is expected to be out for the next few weeks after suffering a deep bone bruise on his tibia Saturday.

"Dale will be okay," Billick said. "We got a good, solid week with Dale and that's good."
Defensive lineman Kelly Gregg (hyperextended elbow) returned to practice with the aid of a bulky arm brace that made his arm look bionic. Return specialist B.J. Sams (hamstring) is back, too.

Tight end Todd Heap (ankle, shoulder), running back Musa Smith, defensive tackle Gary Gibson (foot) and fullback Alan Ricard (hamstring) didn't practice. Billick said that Ricard would likely return by Wednesday as he was held out for precautionary measures.

RISKY THROWS: While Boller connected on a few touchdown passes in drills, including a deep throw to Derrick Mason, he also potentially put receivers at risk over the middle.

A few of his throws hung in the air far too long. Mercifully, safety Will Demps pulled up on one occasion when he had an obvious kill shot and didn't crush Mason. A recent Sporting News article rated Boller as one of the NFL's worst as far as protecting his receivers from danger.

PROGRESSION: Although it wasn't evident based on first-year offensive coordinator Jim Fassel losing his temper at a few players Monday, including quarterback Derek Anderson and offensive lineman Brian Rimpf, he's generally encouraged about the offense.

"We've got a ways to go, but I think after the first scrimmage I'm pleased with these guys," Fassel said. "The thing I told them is to make a mistake is not catastrophic. What's catastrophic is to make a mistake then make it again. Then, I'm mad.

"There have been a few guys who have gotten scathed. I tell them, ‘I don't want to coach hustle, toughness or intensity.' I've raised the volume a couple of times and they got the message."

STRUGGLING: The rookie quarterbacks -- Anderson and Darian Durant -- had a rough outing in the scrimmage.

Anderson tripped over his own feet on consecutive plays, but did complete all three passes. Durant was held out of the scrimmage after going 0-for-4 with an interception during 7-on-7 drills.

"They've got to move on from that and learn from that," Billick said, "because the next time the bullets are going to be live."

BIG CROWDS: The Ravens have hosted 19,375 fans during their first week of practice at McDaniel College.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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