Jamal Lewis saw crowds and flashes of color beyond the people in the stands watching him carry the football. The Carolina Panthers surrounded him with a wall of black and blue. More important, though, the Ravens running back didn't experience flashes of pain Sunday in his first regular-season game since tearing ligaments in his left knee last August. More..."> Jamal Lewis saw crowds and flashes of color beyond the people in the stands watching him carry the football. The Carolina Panthers surrounded him with a wall of black and blue. More important, though, the Ravens running back didn't experience flashes of pain Sunday in his first regular-season game since tearing ligaments in his left knee last August. More...">

Jamal Lewis makes safe return

<A HREF="http://scout.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=118&p=8&c=1&nid=266235&yr=2002">Jamal Lewis</A> saw crowds and flashes of color beyond the people in the stands watching him carry the football. The <A HREF="http://panthers.theinsiders.com">Carolina Panthers</A> surrounded him with a wall of black and blue. More important, though, the Ravens running back didn't experience flashes of pain Sunday in his first regular-season game since tearing ligaments in his left knee last August. <B>More...</B>

Although Carolina defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio acted on knowledge gleaned from his days as the Baltimore linebackers coach to limit the burly runner's impact, Lewis still rushed for a team-high 64 yards on 17 carries.

"Actually, I feel great," said Lewis, returning from his second reconstructed knee after injuring his right knee in college. "It's not aching at all. It's not swollen at all. It held up pretty good during the whole game. That was a real test for me."

Lewis slipped away from the congested line of scrimmage for four receptions and 33 yards. He had one 18-yard scamper in the second half after being shut down in the first half to the tune of 11 yards on seven tries a 1.6 average.

Lewis' worst moment came in the fourth quarter when he was overpowered by rookie defensive end Julius Peppers. The second overall pick of the draft deflected Chris Redman's pass into the hands of linebacker Dan Morgan for a game-sealing interception.

 "Jamal had power," Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker said. "He gave us some trouble, and he looks like he's getting back like he really got in the flow. He's going to help us down the road, especially myself."

Still, Lewis doesn't exactly resemble the bruiser who set the club single-season rushing mark with 1,364 yards as a rookie during the Ravens' Super Bowl campaign. Traditionally, it takes backs more than one year to fully recover from a surgically repaired knee.

In Lewis' previous case at Tennessee, he wasn't as explosive in terms of having a sustained burst as he was when he arrived on the Volunteers' campus with two healthy knees. What's key now is how the knee responds to this extended workload.

"I thought the guy gave us great effort and some energy," running backs coach Matt Simon said of Lewis, who was limited in preseason to nine carries for 44 yards. "The deterioration, what will go on with the knee, will go on. He came out feeling pretty good, but it's hard to predict what's next."

It's a start, though, one that could reduce the pressure on Redman. Lewis said his goal was to make defenses play Redman honestly.

"I thought Jamal ran hard," Redman said. "It didn't seem like he really got into the flow. He's going to help us a lot down the road, especially myself."

Bottom line: Lewis didn't aggravate the knee, demonstrating solid conditioning after reporting to training camp at roughly 250 pounds. And Lewis challenged the Panthers on occasion with his forward momentum and body lean.

 "He came out healthy and strong with good, hard running," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "If the knee doesn't swell up, doesn't need to be drained, I would say, physically, it was a great outing."


Ravens Insider Top Stories