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Ravens' RB has proven what he can do

November 24, 2005|By DAVID GINSBURG

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Perceiving his disappointing season to be the product of fewer carries, Jamal Lewis figures the Baltimore Ravens have decided to cut his playing time solely to take a hard look at backup Chester Taylor.

Lewis, who is averaging a meager 3.0 yards per carry, has been told that Taylor will receive more work over the final six weeks of the season. Lewis accepted the news with a shrug of the shoulders, mainly because he knows there's nothing he can about it.

"If he's getting more carries or if he's getting more time, it doesn't bother me because I've proven what I can do," Lewis said Wednesday. "The only thing that does is just keep me fresher and keep me going."

Taylor ran 19 times for 59 yards and caught four passes for 26 yards in Sunday's 16-13 overtime win over Pittsburgh. Lewis received only three carries after halftime and finished with 28 yards.

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Lewis ran for 2,066 yards in 2003 and topped the 1,000-yard mark last year despite missing four games. This season, however, he has yet to have a 100-game game and is on course to finish with 813 yards.

The punishing running back is averaging 17 carries per game, down substantially from the 24 he averaged during his banner 2003 season. That, he says, goes a long way toward explaining his frustrating year.

"(In 2003) we did whatever we could do to get this thing going. It was put the ball in my hands 20-25 times a game and get it rolling," he said. "Now it's not like that. It's out of my control. There's nothing I can about it."

Lewis and Taylor become unrestricted free agents after this season, and each player's performance over the final six games could go a long way toward determining the direction the Ravens decide to go during the offseason.

"I've proven what I can do, I know what I can do, people know what I can do, everybody around knows what I can do," Lewis said. "That's all that matters.

"This is not a let's see what Jamal Lewis can do thing," he continued. "They know what I can do. Really, I see it as more of a Chester Taylor evaluation, to see what he can do and see if he can carry the load. That's just how I see it."

His view, however, doesn't match that of coach Brian Billick, who intends to use Taylor more in the hopes of improving a running game that ranks 22nd in the 32-team league.

"I have no doubt that Chester can be an every-down back. That is not part of my thought process right now," Billick said earlier in the week.

There is, however, some question whether Lewis' best years are behind him. Lewis believes he would be more productive if given more opportunity to run, but he hasn't gotten the chance because the Ravens (3-7) have fallen behind early and been forced to abandon the running game.

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