Reading Between The Lines: Baltimore Ravens - By Neal Coolong

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This is what the writer REALLY meant to say...

Title: Ravens RB Lewis Denied Access To Camp
Source: Sports Network
Date: June 8, 2004
URL: http://sportsnetwork.com/default.asp?c=nytimes&page=nfl/news/ABN3935003.htm

Ravens running back Jamal Lewis had his request to attend training camp denied by the Atlanta halfway house where he is spending two months after serving a four-month term for using a cell phone to help set up a drug transaction in June of 2000.

Under the rules at the halfway house, the Baltimore star running back can only leave for work in northern Georgia and training camp is in Maryland, beginning in late July.

(He's also not allowed to set up drug transactions using his cell phone.)

His halfway-house term will be completed by either August 1 or August 2, which will cause Lewis to miss the start of camp.

Last Friday, Lewis met with the media just one day after being released from a Florida prison camp and said he learned a hard lesson.

(And that lesson was to not to drop the soap.)

"I can't wait to get back to the football field and put this whole thing behind me and move forward," Lewis said last week. "I missed my freedom and being around my family and friends.

"The lesson learned is just pick your friends wisely and watch who you associate with."

(Something Lewis failed to learn in his first three decades on the earth.)

The NFL's leading rusher in the 2003 season had been accused of trying to help a childhood friend buy cocaine in a deal that turned out to be part of an FBI sting operation in the summer of 2000.

(24-hour police surveillance on Ravens players is standard for the sake of society.)

According to prosecutors and the FBI, Lewis was contacted on his cell phone by a "seller" who turned out to be a government informant. Lewis then allegedly took his friend, Angelo Jackson, to a restaurant to set up the cocaine buy.

Jackson and the informant then met several more times over the next several weeks, but Lewis was not part of any of those conversations, according to court papers. No drugs exchanged hands.

(But they both snorted the cocaine they brought for themselves.)

Lewis was sentenced to four months in prison on January 26 in Atlanta. The sentence issued in federal court matched the terms of the agreement reached with prosecutors in October.

Under the plea agreement, charges of drug conspiracy and cocaine possession were dropped by prosecutors and Lewis agreed to a term of four months in prison, two months in a halfway house and 500 hours of community service.

(None of those 500 hours, police said, are to be spent anywhere near Jackson or a cell phone.)

Lewis' attorney has asked the court to allow the former All-Pro to attend mini-camp later this month, but the Ravens have said they will abide by the court's ruling.

Head coach Brian Billick attended the news conference and is confident that Lewis will put this all behind him and be a better man for it.

"When Jamal is on the field, this is clearly behind us. He has a challenge in front of him now," Billick said. "I'm excited about what Jamal will bring into that locker room -- and the community. You learn from your own mistakes. The guys in the locker room can learn."

(Even though the team obviously hasn't learned that yet.)

In 2003, Lewis led the NFL with 2,066 rushing yards, the second-highest single-season total in league history, and also broke the NFL's single-game rushing record with a 295-yard effort against Cleveland on September 14.

(The single game record does contain an asterisk, as does any offensive record set when Dwayne Rudd was a starting linebacker on the opposing team.)

Last year, he rushed for 1,006 yards and seven touchdowns on 235 carries, but was also suspended for two games without pay and fined an additional two weeks' salary by the league for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.

(So obviously, he learned his lesson.)

The Ravens ended the campaign with a 9-7 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs.