Anderson: 'You have to compete'

OWINGS MILLS -- Mike Anderson dealt with the news of Jamal Lewis' unexpected return to Baltimore in a manner befitting his military background. He took it like a Marine, appearing unfazed and upbeat.

Hours after agreeing to an $8 million contract Sunday night, Anderson was surprised to learn that he was no longer assured of being the Baltimore Ravens' starting running back. When Lewis reached terms in the middle of the night, the backfield suddenly became crowded with power runners.

Anderson emphasized Tuesday that he has embraced the situation and looks forward to competing and collaborating with Lewis. The players nearly swapped jobs and cities until Lewis canceled a planned visit to Denver.

"Yes, it was a surprise, but if you've been in this business long enough, you'd know that at any given moment anything can happen," Anderson said at a Tuesday news conference where he was introduced along with former Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce and former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Justin Bannan. "My agent was talking with the Baltimore organization and they had it that Jamal was coming into town to visit Denver. All of the sudden, it was flipped and he wasn't coming.

"He was staying and that's fine with me. I know Jamal and I'd love to play with him."

Lewis declined the Broncos' longer-term offer to sign a three-year, $26 million contract that is really designed to act as a one-year, $6 million deal. Baltimore inserted a $5 million roster bonus in March of 2007 to decide if it wants to pay him a total of $10 million next year, restructure his contract or cut him.

Anderson, who has a reputation as a workhorse, was always aware in Denver that another qualified running back or two was waiting on the bench for him to get tired.

Now, Anderson is expected to either spur Lewis into regaining his former 2,000-yard rushing form or pick up the slack if the 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year falters. Anderson said he was told by the Ravens that he would compete with Lewis.

"I assumed that I was going to come in and compete," said Anderson, who received a $2 million signing bonus. "Nothing is guaranteed in this business and you can't assume anything.

"You have to keep yourself in the best shape and have that mentality every day when you step on the field you have to compete. I see myself fitting in side by side with Jamal."

After getting a late start playing football since he was in the marching band in high school and joined the Marines after graduation, Anderson, 32, is six years older than Lewis.
"The thing about me is that I've heard the age thing before, but I've been a fighter all along," Anderson said. "I never looked at it and never let it hinder me in what I try to do. Some people are thinking, ‘Oh, that guy is 32,' but I'm still here and I plan on still being here a couple of more years to go. I promise."

Anderson rushed for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns last season to outgain Lewis (906 yards) while collaborating with Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne for the NFL's second-ranked running game. Baltimore finished 21st in rushing, its lowest ranking since 1997.

"I'm looking forward to doing it again with another big boy, a bigger back with my style as a bruising type of back," Anderson said.

Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis said he envisions Lewis (5-foot-11, 245 pounds) and Anderson (6-0, 230 pounds) wearing out defenses. He doesn't anticipate discord over the division of playing time, or with the team inserting Anderson at fullback.

"People blow that out of proportion," Kokinis said. "If you're winning football games, I think players are happy and the organization is happy."

NOTES: The Ravens have begun talking with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese, but no visit has been scheduled. Baltimore is still believed to have a strong interest in Kerry Collins. … Pryce, who signed a $25 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, said there are no concerns about a herniated disc that sidelined him for all of 2004. "On my physical, the doctor gave me an X-ray and she said she couldn't find anywhere where I got hurt on my back, so that pretty much answers your question," said Pryce, who cited former Baltimore and Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe's endorsement as a reason to choose Baltimore over Cleveland, Miami and Philadelphia. … Pryce was impressed by the Ravens' $31 million facility, especially compared to the Browns' complex. "The facility means the organization is serious about winning," he said. "Nobody wants to come to work at a piece of junk and this right here is A-1. Me and Bart Scott, we both visited Cleveland and it's pretty evident what they're going through." ... Punter Jason Baker could visit Baltimore by the end of the week, according to his agent.

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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