Jamal Lewis, the RB from Tennessee who was the #5 pick overall of the 2000 draft for the Ravens came with an awesome triangle of numbers that couldn't be ignored.
He weighed a healthy 240pds of solid muscle, ran a blazing 4.3/40, and had the vision, toughness, and punishing mentality that you look for in your franchise back.
Unfortunately he also came with an injury history that included a bum knee, shoulder, ankle, etc. and was perpetually nicked up. When healthy there are few RB's in this league who can compare.
But whenever you have to start any description of an athlete with the words ‘when healthy', you know that there are going to be problems down the line. It's almost a given.
Sure enough, after Jamal contributed mightily to the Ravens Super Bowl run in 2000 & was primed and ready to give them an even better performance in 2001, the unthinkable happened.
In a freak training camp accident, DT Kelly Gregg was tripped up and landed square on the knee of the Ravens' franchise RB Jamal Lewis. First considered a sprain, the team initially didn't think that it'd turn out to be as serious as we'd soon find out it was.
It was an ACL tear, one that would shelf Jamal Lewis, with all of his awe-inspiring talents, for the entire 2001 season. It tore through the heart of a franchise, as they were literally caught with their pants down.
No one expected such a serious crisis to occur so suddenly and without warning. All that was left on the roster was an un-drafted free agent RB in Jason Brookins & a 5th round unproven rookie in RB Chris Barnes. What a mess it was.
Fast-forward to the 2002 season. Jamal's presence alone will give the Ravens a lift on offense, but the question has to be ‘how will he hold up?' We've seen this before from other athletes; the comeback trail is riddled with more injuries, setbacks, delays, etc., and there's nothing that'll aid the healing process other than time.
But Jamal has certain advantages over guys like RB Jamal Anderson & RB Terrell Davis; two players who suffered from similar injuries during their careers.
As twisted as it may seem Jamal has the ‘advantage' of experiencing a similar injury before in college on his other knee and rehabilitating it successfully. This is of utter importance, as the mental complexities of such a serious knee injury far out-weigh the physical limitations.
Jamal also has that all-important advantage of youth. Considering that he's only 22 years old, his body is better suited to handle the recovery process than guys like Anderson and Davis who were 5 years older or more.
Jamal's injury also occurred before he'd really put stress on it like had he played in a few games before hand. Both Anderson & Davis were injured during the season. Jamal being able to start his rehab right away has to be considered somewhat of an advantage as well.
The future of not only this franchise, but also possibly the careers of a few key players may ride on how quickly Jamal can bounce back from this injury and contribute.
The name that leaps to the forefront of my mind has to be first-time starter QB Chris Redman. Former Ravens QB Elvis Grbac was doomed to fail from the start because of a lack of a rushing presence in the backfield. Those who doubt this need to ask what he's doing right now; he's out of the league.