When Jamal Lewis was dealing with federal drug case that ultimately cost him four months in prison nine years ago, the former star running back had the backing of the Ravens' organization.
Now that Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer, were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence after a fight at an Atlantic City casino, Lewis anticipates a similar reaction from the front office.
"When I was a young player within that organization, I went through things where you're down about it and then an Ozzie Newsome or a Steve Bisciotti would stand behind you," Lewis said in a telephone interview with The Baltimore Sun. "It's more like a family atmosphere. You're not just an employee. When I was down and out and going through my things, I had Ozzie behind me and Steve was coming through the gate to see me and let me know they're there for me when things were going on. I think that's the atmosphere they bring with a first-class organization. They support you when things go bad. They're very supportive. That's why I love those guys. They instilled a lot in me."
Rice had no history of off-field problems and is an advocate for anti-bullying campaigns.
Was Lewis caught off guard by the news involving Rice?
"I'm not going to say I was surprised because I don't know what goes on in this man's household," Lewis said. "That's one of the things that we forget about is that these guys are human. When you do something wrong, nothing makes it right. Those are issues he has to deal with. I wouldn't know what's going on in his life, but I hope everything turns out all right.
"When things happen, they happen for a reason and who knows that reason is outside of Ray. Hopefully, with the Ravens behind him, he'll be fine. We hate that something did happen, but I'm sure something good will happen on the backside."
Former Ravens kicker Matt Stover spent 18 seasons with the franchise, including his time with the original Browns.
During that time, Stover saw the Ravens deal with everything from middle linebacker Ray Lewis being initially accused of murder before pleading guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice to other players' off-field legal problems.
"If this was a marital thing or relationship issue with Ray Rice, it was unfortunate it happened and I'm sure the team will absolutely handle it with the utmost respect for Ray Rice and the organization," Stover said. "If I'm Steve or Ozzie, you shake your head and you say, 'I wonder what happened,' and then you say, 'Let's all get together.' As human beings, we all have our issues. We all have things. Sometimes, they come to public light.
"Sometimes, the player tends to find himself in a situation where it makes himself very vulnerable with the organization. I don't think that's the case with Ray. He's a great kid. I like Ray a lot. Whatever happend, I can't judge that. I will say this: The team will back him and the locker room will handle itself. It's a tight-knit group of guys, and that starts at the top."
Stover reflected on what happened with Jamal Lewis where he pleaded guilty in 2004 to a federal charge of using a cell phone to assist a friend in a cocaine transaction that ultimately never took place. Under the plea bargain, prosecutors dropped a more serious charge of conspiring to possess cocaine and Lewis spent two months in a halfway house in addition to his prison sentence.
The Ravens took plenty of criticism at that time, but they did their research into Lewis' situation and the 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year remained with the team for two more seasons after being released from prison.
"Jamal went through those issues, and it was handled with respect," Stover said. "The Ravens didn't judge. They found out what happened and it was a bad deal for Jamal. I went to speak with [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin Byrne and I wanted to know what happened. I found out it was an unfortunate situation where he made a phone call and that was it. He broke the law. The organization handled it very well because they have a very good staff."
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