By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
4:18 PM EDT, September 17, 2012
Jamal Lewis' rugged style of football first caught the eye of general manager Ozzie Newsome after getting a tip from former Ravens scouting executive Phil Savage.
Newsome later watched the future Ravens first-round draft pick run roughshod over his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide for the Tennessee Volunteers.
And, as a precocious 21-year-old rookie nearly one year later, Lewis contributed 103 yards and one touchdown during the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV victory over the New York Giants.
Now, Lewis will be inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor during a Sept. 27 game against the Cleveland Browns.
"The reason why we were able to win the Super Bowl in 2000 was because of Jamal Lewis," Newsome said during a Monday press conference at the Ravens' training complex. "I think the reason we didn't win in 2001 was that Jamal got hurt and we weren't able to replace him."
A former NFL Offensive Player of the Year who rushed for 2,066 yards during the 2003 season for the second-best single-season total behind Eric Dickson, Lewis played a decade in the NFL and is the Ravens' all-time leading rusher with 7,801 yards and 45 touchdowns.
"It will be a great feeling, probably a very emotional one," Lewis said. "I'm very honored, it's just a great deal and a good way to go out. I never thought 12 years ago that we would be doing this, but here it is and I take it all in deeply. This is where it all started. It was a lot of memories made here."
At a powerful 5-foot-11, 245 pounds, Lewis built a reputation for bulldozing tacklers and being fast enough to run away from the defense to finish runs as a home run hitter.
"My dad always told me: 'Be the hitter," Lewis said. "It's more of an intimidation factor. It feels good to hear a guy say that you were tough to play against and being able to grind it out and just not be stopped. That was pretty much my style, to run you over rather than run around you. I always felt that I was a defensive player playing on offense. I always ended up hanging around linebackers because I wasn't the finesse type of guy."
Lewis, 32, has dealt with off-field adversity, including serving four months in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to a using a cellular phone to facilitate a cocaine deal.
Lewis filed for bankruptcy in Georgia in April.
The former NFL player was arrested and charged with child abandonment in August, describing the legal episode in a statement at the time as a misunderstanding rather than being an unfit parent.
Lewis is among the many former NFL players involved in pending concussion litigation against the league.
"Health-wise, doing pretty good, but I still feel a few old pains," Lewis said. "Due to the whole lawsuit issue, I really can't go too much into that. Those things are being worked out. I'm not getting up falling out of bed every morning, I can tell you that."
Outside linebackers improving
Following a rough season opener where they failed to set the edge consistently, outside linebackers Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw upgraded their play against the Philadelphia Eagles.
During a 24-23 loss at Lincoln Financial Field, both players contributed to limiting Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to 81 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries for an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
"The outside 'backers played pretty well for the most part," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "If you look at the downside, we had some issues in coverage. We jumped some scrambles, jumped some routes occasionally, but they both set the edge well. They were both very physical out there, applied some pressure in pass rush. So, there were some good things."
McClellan recorded a career-high six tackles, including two tackles for losses, a pass deflection and a fumble recovery.
"I think I played pretty good, better than what I did before," McClellan said. "I'm getting more comfortable. The game is starting to slow down for me now."
Upshaw started his first NFL game with veteran outside linebacker Paul Kruger out with a back injury.
The second-round draft pick from Alabama finished with a career-high six tackles, one for a loss.
"I think Courtney covered his ground," defensive end Pernell McPhee said. "I really think he played great."
Upshaw has 10 tackles and a half-sack through two games.
Upshaw reported to training camp at over 280 pounds and initially flunked the Ravens' conditioning test before passing it on the second try and dealt with a sprained right shoulder throughout August. He's now down to nearly 270 pounds and moving around better.
“He’s on the way," Harbaugh said. "Courtney’s not there yet, and he’ll be the first to tell you that, but he’s on the way for a young guy. A setback by the injury, and by the conditioning level coming in, but I’m looking forward to seeing how fast he progresses in the next couple of weeks. It’s going to be interesting to see that.”
Where McClellan, Upshaw and the entire front seven needed to do more was in pressuring Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
Vick had far too much time to operate, completing 23 of 32 passes for 371 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 94.7 passer rating as well as the game-winning touchdown run. He was only sacked twice, once by strong safety Bernard Pollard and once by inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and was hit only three times.
Although Kruger said he'll definitely return Sunday night against the New England Patriots, Upshaw expressed confidence that he did well enough to garner more playing time.
"I feel I have, but it's all in the coaches' hands," Upshaw said. "I try to do what I do best every week."
Harbaugh noncommittal on Pollard
Although Pollard has already declared he'll play Sunday night against the New England Patriots despite a rib contusion, Harbaugh wasn't definitive on his status.
"We will see about Bernard," Harbaugh said. "He's got a little rib deal in there. It's just going to come down to him and how he can deal with that pain."
Too much ground surrendered
The Ravens surrendered extra yards after first contact, missing a higher amount of tackles against two elusive players in Vick and McCoy.
The Eagles rushed for 129 yards, gaining 3.1 yards per carry.
"It was a higher number of missed tackles, mostly due to the fact that's the way those guys run," Harbaugh said. "McCoy, he's going to be a make-you-miss guy. Against the Eagles, the missed tackles percentage on most teams is going to go up. Same token, I expect us to be a great tackling team. I expect us to be the best tackling defense in the NFL, and that's something that we've definitely got to chase."
Harbaugh declined to pour any more verbal gasoline on the Ravens' fiery disagreement with the replacement referees, who nullified Jacoby Jones' touchdown catch on an offensive pass interference call. "We do have confidence in the league in the way they approach the officials, both in the short term and the long term, so we'll trust them to take care of that," Harbaugh said when asked about the labor dispute between the league and the regular officials. "We'll focus on our jobs in getting our teams ready." As for the Ravens' complaints, Harbaugh opted to not pile on further after calling the game chaotic on Sunday: "As far as the officiating goes, I'm not going to have any comment about it because it all goes hand in hand. I'm not going to have any comment about it whatsoever in any way, shape or form." ... Harbaugh praised rookie kicker Justin Tucker, who connected on field goals from 56, 51 and 48 yards. "He did a great job, but next week is a new week so we'll hold his feet to the fire," Harbaugh said. "The thing I like about 'Tuck' is he's workmanlike. He really pays attention to detail, technique. It's never too big for him, so he's off to a good start." ... The Patriots signed former Ravens rookie safety Cyhl Quarles to the practice squad recently. Will Bill Belichick glean any insight from Quarles' Baltimore background, or the Ravens from former Patriots safety James Ihedigbo? "They signed a guy, Cyhl Quarles, so I'm sure he's being put under the bright lights right now being interrogated," Harbaugh said with a laugh. "There's always value to that, sure."