Lewis will miss practice Thursday

Updated: October 6, 2004, 12:02 PM ET
Associated Press

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens expect Jamal Lewis to play Sunday night against the Washington Redskins. However, they're already preparing for the possibility an NFL suspension would take away their star running back for up to four games.

Jamal Lewis
Running Back
Baltimore Ravens
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
77 378 4 1 46 0

Lewis probably will be suspended, and perhaps fined, by the NFL if he pleads guilty Thursday to drug charges in Atlanta, as expected.

"A drug-related violation is grounds for discipline from the league," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.

The Ravens figure to hear from the league about a disciplinary measure during their bye week, which begins after the Washington game.

"I don't know, but I would guess there might be some resolution during the bye week," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I would certainly think so. And once we have that resolution, then we can plan with a little more detail."

Under the deal being considered, Lewis would plead guilty to using a cell phone in violation of federal law and serve a sentence of six months after the 2005 season. Once the plea is on the record, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue can move ahead with his review of the case.

"They will set the parameters for how we go forward, and under what conditions legally," Billick said, referring to the legal system. "The next part of the process is obviously what the league wants to do."

Lewis will miss practice Thursday while in Atlanta federal court, but Billick intends to have him back for Friday's practice and in the backfield Sunday night when Baltimore (2-2) ties to bounce back from Monday's 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I'm comfortable that he'll have enough time to be ready for Sunday's game," Billick said. "It's our understanding that it's very unlikely that there will be any judgment with regards to what the league chooses to do that would impact this game.

"Beyond that, I don't think anything has changed from how we originally planned to deal with these circumstances."

The Ravens figured they would lose Lewis during his trial, which was scheduled to begin Nov. 1. Now, they anticipate losing him for from one to four weeks, beginning with the Oct. 24 home game against the Buffalo Bills.

Regardless of the length of the suspension, Billick will summon backups Chester Taylor and Musa Smith to run in Lewis' place. Taylor has 121 yards rushing on 21 carries this season. Smith has not run the ball, but has seen extensive action on special teams.

"The good thing is that both are actively involved," Billick said.

The Ravens remain steadfast in support of Lewis, their most prolific offensive star and a soft-spoken individual who last season ran for 2,066 yards -- the second-highest single season total in NFL history.

"I would suggest that you all wait and see what the circumstances are before you rush to judgment, because there are some particular circumstances of which you'll see why we hold firm to our belief in Jamal," Billick said.

"This was a 20-year-old, a junior in college four years ago, that had a serious lapse in judgment," said Billick, adding the lapse was not to the degree that people believe.

Now, four years later, Lewis has managed to keep his attention on football despite legal problems that could have landed him a stiff prison sentence.

"To watch his focus in meetings, the way he interacts with his teammates, the way he conducts himself out of practice, you have to be impressed," Billick said. "We all have things going on in our lives, but this is quite serious, that he's been very focused through it all. That's been very impressive."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press