Following the opening day of the Baltimore Ravens’ mandatory minicamp, the star middle linebacker avoided any potential controversy regarding his future with the team as he enters the final year of his contract.
A nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Lewis is due a $6.5 million base salary this season after signing a $50 million contract that included $19 million in guaranteed money in 2002. Lewis’ agent has been seeking a lucrative contract extension, and team owner Steve Bisciotti indicated at the NFL owners’ meetings last month that the team would probably outbid any other team if the 32-year-old became a free agent.
At this point, though, no deal is imminent as the two sides are believed to be far apart in negotiations.
"That stuff is irrelevant for what we’re trying to do right now," Lewis said. "The bottom line is whatever we’re trying to do as a team, that’s the focus. If we keep that team concept there, then that team concept stays there.
"If you start talking about individual, that means nothing. Everybody knows this is a business and everything will take care of itself. I’m just excited to be back playing football again."
Lewis appeared to be in good condition, saying his weight fluctuates between 255 and 258 pounds with six percent body fat. He added that he believes he has at least three or four more seasons left as he enters his 13th season.
Lewis, who spoke to Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome minutes prior to a locker-room interview, didn’t appear agitated about the uncertainty of his status.
When asked if he foresaw himself in a Ravens uniform for a long time, Lewis replied: "I see myself getting ready for the next practice, and I see myself getting ready for the season. Like I said, once you start to get on that side of things, you lose your passion about why you play this game.
"I have never got caught up in that. If anybody has kept track of my career, everybody knows there has never been a camp that I’ve held out and there has never been a contract problem with me. It will never be that with me."
OUTDOOR WORKOUT: Unlike the tradition of former coach Brian Billick practicing indoors in inclement weather, coach John Harbaugh had the team practice in a steady rainfall Friday morning before using the indoor facility for a night practice.
"I didn’t hear anything negative," Harbaugh said. "I heard a lot of guys go, "Hey, that’s great, we want to be outside.’ But I wasn’t around anybody right at the end there, either.
"It’s a great opportunity with the conditions to get some reps going, a wet ball with the wind blowing a little bit. That was good."
For the Ravens, it’s a matter of adjusting to a tougher, more demanding regimen with the new coaching staff.
"He’s trying to change the culture and the mindset obviously," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "You just embrace it and go with the flow. The culture is different."
OGDEN UPDATE: All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who has said he’s leaning toward retirement, didn’t attend the mandatory workout. That wasn’t an unexpected development for team officials.
"J.O. is a unique situation right now," Harbaugh said. "I don’t think you think of it in terms of an absence, of being here or not being here.
"He’s trying to figure out what his future is. There’s really nothing new to report, but we’ll play that one as it goes."
Lewis talked about Ogden as if it were all but official that the 11-time Pro Bowl selection is done playing.
"We have to move on very quickly, and I think we have," Lewis said. "For me, personally, not seeing J.O. is always strange."
SUGGS UPDATE: Terrell Suggs, the Ravens’ franchise player who has filed a grievance against the team over whether he should be classified as a defensive end or an outside linebacker, didn’t attend the workout
Suggs was tagged with an $8.065 million linebacker designation, but is seeking the defensive end figure of $814,000 more. No long-term contract extension is impending after beginning negotiations over a year ago, and Suggs isn’t allowed to practice until he signs his one-year franchise tender.
"That’s the business side of things," Harbaugh said.
SYPNIEWSKI OUT: Tight end Quinn Sypniewski underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season after undergoing major damage to his left knee.
"It looks like now we’re not going to have him back," Harbaugh said. "The ligament tore off the bone, the piece of the bone that came off with the ligament shattered, which made it a situation where it’s going to be six to nine months."
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT CLASS: The Ravens typically find a few hidden gems with their undrafted rookie free agents, signing players for a few thousand dollars or no signing bonus at all.
Baltimore signed 13 rookie free agents, including: Grand Valley offensive guard Brandon Barnes (6-2, 315), Louisville wide receiver Patrick Carter (6-3, 200), Wagner punter Piotr Czech (6-5, 210), Fordham punter/kicker Benjamin Dato (6-2, 205), Eastern Kentucky offensive tackle Sean Dumford (6-5, 293), Michigan offensive guard Adam Kraus (6-6, 295), Louisville tight end Scott Kuhn (6-6, 257), Syracuse inside linebacker Jameel McClain (6-1, 256), Western Michigan tight end Joe Reitz (6-7, 256), Catawba quarterback Brad Roach (6-6, 245), Minnesota wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright (6-5, 215), Illinois State offensive guard Isaiah Wiggins (6-4, 290) and Missouri defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams (6-0, 304).
Ranked third all-time for his school in scoring (1,713 points) and rebounding (939), Reitz hasn’t played football since he was in high school in Fishers, Ind.
Several other players were in camp on a trial basis, including former Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee.
QUICK HITS: Tight ends Daniel Wilcox (toe surgery) and Lee Vickers didn’t practice, and offensive tackle Adam Terry (ankle surgery) was limited. … Harbaugh indicated he intends to keep Jared Gaither at left tackle. … Kyle Boller threw two interceptions in team drills with Lewis returning one for a touchdown.
Photos by Sabina Moran