J. Lewis: 'I got a leash around my neck'

BALTIMORE -- In a combination of gallows' humor, practiced sarcasm and real frustration, Jamal Lewis was venting again late Sunday afternoon inside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room. The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year made an allusion to being in the Ravens' doghouse following a 16-15 win over the Houston Texans.

"Maybe somebody is scared I'm going to get in there and break one off for 80, 90 yards," Lewis said after gaining only 17 yards on eight carries. "It's like I got a leash around my neck. I get things going and somebody pulls me back to the sideline and I ride the pine."

One week after rushing for a season-high 113 yards on 23 carries in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Lewis' workload was severely limited. Backup Chester Taylor gained 40 yards on 11 carries.

The Ravens managed only 73 rushing yards against the NFL's worst run defense as both Lewis and Taylor fumbled.

"Be a man about it, say what you want to do," Lewis said. "I play this sport and I'm used to playing. Let me play football.

"If you're not going to let me play football, then leave me be, let me do whatever. They know what's going on. They know what they're doing."
A former Pro Bowl running back who's wo seasons removed from a 2,066-yard campaign, Lewis is in the final year of a six-year, $35.3 million contract. Set to be an unrestricted free agent along with Taylor, Lewis hasn't been shy about expressing his displeasure with the rotation.

He carried the ball just twice for five yards after halftime.

"Nothing is wrong with me," Lewis said. "I was down for whatever reason. I guess we're in that mode again, that competition thing. Maybe they're trying to prove what Chester can do or whatever.

"It's like that song, the Hokey Pokey. You know, Jamal's in, Jamal's out, Jamal's in, Jamal's out. What can I do about it?"
Since Lewis brought it up, it seems like the Ravens are performing an NFL rendition of that old childhood ditty:

You take the $3.58 million starter (Lewis) in and you take him out. You put the $3 million backup (Taylor) in and you shake it all about...

In all seriousness, the Lewis-Taylor combination has only produced a combined 978 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis has gained a career-low 638 yards and is averaging 3.1 yards per carry. Taylor has been far more effective with a 4.4 average and a long run of 52 yards.

Lewis did contribute to the win by smartly getting out of bounds with 50 seconds left after a 7-yard reception on the game-winning drive.

"I'll be glad when it's all over," Lewis said, referring to the end of the season and perhaps the end of his six-year tenure in Baltimore. "You all know what's going on. Don't make me say it. I'm not going to put myself in that position. You know what's happening.

"Jamal is healthy. Jamal goes out and runs hard every week. Look what happened against the Bengals."

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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