Lewis well-trained for 2,000-yard season

Updated: December 31, 2003, 10:58 AM ET
Associated Press

Jamal Lewis rushed past the 2,000-yard mark, took the Baltimore Ravens to their first division title and won The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.

Lewis, a powerful-yet-speedy running back who rushed for 2,066 yards, second-most in NFL history, and 14 touchdowns, easily outdistanced San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson for the honor, announced Wednesday. Lewis also set an NFL single-game mark with 295 yards rushing against Cleveland in the second game of the season, then ran for 205 against the Browns in Game 15.

That set him up to become the fifth player to reach 2,000 yards, which he did early in last Sunday night's 13-10 overtime victory against Pittsburgh. And with 114 yards against the Steelers, he finished behind only Eric Dickerson's 2,105 in 1984.

"It's a great honor, it's everything that I worked for in the offseason, everything that I strived for," Lewis said. "It's like everything is coming together. I'm actually showing I'm a premier back in this league."

Lewis showed that in 2000. After being selected fifth overall in the draft, he rushed for 1,364 yards as a rookie as the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

But he tore up his left knee in the next training camp and missed the 2001 season. The long rehab paid off when he ran for 1,327 yards last year, setting up his sensational 2003 season.

In all, Lewis rushed for at least 100 yards 12 times this season, just as Dickerson did in '84. That earned him 29 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.

Lewis credited his rigorous offseason workouts for putting him in the best shape of his career.

"This offseason I dedicated myself a lot more," he said. "Me and my trainers, we started off early. That's where it all came from, being able to come into training camp and minicamp in shape, with a goal in mind.

"Now I can say it: My goal was to reach 2,000. I knew it was possible and I'm not just saying that. You can ask my trainer, that's all he drilled into my head: 2,000, 2,000, 2,000."

Of the other 2,000-yard rushers -- Dickerson, O.J. Simpson (1973), Barry Sanders (1997) and Terrell Davis (1998) -- only Sanders and Davis were selected the top offensive player in that season. However, all but Dickerson were voted the NFL's Most Valuable Player in that season.

The Associated Press will announce the league MVP on Friday.

Tomlinson received eight votes, followed by Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning with six; Kansas City running back Priest Holmes with three; Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair with two; and New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister and St. Louis wide receiver Torry Holt with one apiece.

Lewis is the eighth consecutive running back to win the award, including Holmes last year. He is the first Ravens player to win it.

On Tuesday, teammate Terrell Suggs won The Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press