Ravens star expected to sit Oct. 24, 31
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was suspended for two games without pay by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy, one day after pleading guilty to trying to set up a drug deal four years ago.
|“||You have needlessly sullied your own reputation and reinforced unfair and negative public perceptions of NFL players generally. The long-term damage to your own reputation may well be even greater. ”|
|— Paul Tagliabue|
Lewis will not appeal the punishment and will miss those games in late October, the Ravens said. He plans to play Sunday night at Washington.
Lewis also was fined two weeks' salary, $380,500, in the decision issued Friday by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. That means Lewis will lose a total of $761,000.
"You have needlessly sullied your own reputation and reinforced unfair and negative public perceptions of NFL players generally," Tagliabue said.
"The long-term damage to your own reputation may well be even greater."
A drug-related legal violation is grounds for league discipline under the NFL's substance abuse policy.
A player has five days to appeal a suspension. Though Lewis does not plan to appeal, Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said, he will use the five days to consult with his lawyers, allowing him to play against the Redskins. Baltimore is off the following weekend.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, he will not miss any playing time while serving his sentence of four months in federal prison and two months in a halfway house. The sentence will start after the regular season ends in January and conclude before the 2005 season begins in September.
Lewis missed practice Thursday while in Atlanta and rejoined the team Friday. Before practice, he spoke excitedly about putting his problems behind him.
"It's a load off my shoulders. Now I can continue on," he said. "I don't have to worry about that anymore, and I can just get on with my life and play football."
Lewis pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to try to set up a drug transaction in the summer of 2000 in Atlanta. He knew an NFL suspension would follow his plea, and he was prepared to accept his punishment.
"It's over. Something happened, I have to suffer the consequences, and that's what I'm doing," he said. "The big picture is done with. I'm happy that everything is over with. So, I move on and do what I have to do on the football field."
Lewis did plenty on the field last season, running for 2,066 yards -- the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. But his off-field problems will put an indelible stamp on his effort to come up with a suitable encore.
Lewis will be pressed to defend his NFL rushing title, and his absence could end up costing the Ravens a chance to repeat as AFC North champions and return to the playoffs. But Lewis risked receiving a minimum 10-year prison sentence if he went ahead with his court case in Atlanta and was convicted.
"As long as my career is all right, I'm all right," he said. "I'll be here next season and this season, so it's over with."
Before his plea, Lewis faced the possibility of missing time during a trial that was slated to begin Nov. 1.
"The fact that we don't have to deal with this any further is a good thing," coach Brian Billick said.
"Even though he has dealt with this very well, I can't help but imagine that it's a bit of a relief. It allows him to free his mind up totally now because there is definition. That's got to be a positive thing, rather than the what ifs, when will it happen, what could happen; that definition should allow him to be relaxed and do his job."
"We can't lose any productivity," Smith said. "Me and Chester are ready, and we're going to hold it down while he's out."
Lewis was accused of trying to help broker a cocaine deal for co-defendant Angelo Jackson, a childhood friend, during conversations with a government informant. Charges against Jackson are pending.
Lewis agreed to testify at Jackson's trial, still set for Nov. 1. By that time, Lewis will have completed his NFL suspension. He expects to work out during his absence and reclaim his starting spot.
"I have a good work ethic. I think I've proven that," he said. "From a physical standpoint, I'll miss something. But as far as anything else, I don't think I'll miss a beat."
Lewis said he hopes others will benefit from his mistake, which occurred before he played his first NFL game.
"Watch your friends and who you have around you," he said. "That's the big picture of this whole thing."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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