Willie Jones


ATLANTA - Ravens star running back Jamal Lewis pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal charges that he helped arrange a major cocaine deal for a hometown friend weeks before signing a $35 million contract to begin his NFL career.

Lewis, the league's offensive player of the year and centerpiece of the Ravens offense, also declared his innocence in a statement to reporters after a brief initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. His attorneys, meanwhile, blasted the government's case as one built on the word of an untrustworthy informant.

"It is important to me to let my family, my friends, my fans and the Ravens organization know that I am innocent and thank you...