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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has been shut down for the remainder of the preseason in order to recuperate from a nagging hip injury.
Instead of practicing and playing in games, the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year will spend his time rehabbing an injury that forced him on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp.
Lewis, who strained his left hip flexor running sprints in late July, played in the first two preseason games and rushed for a combined 61 yards on 15 carries. However, the former Pro Bowl runner continued to complain about recurring soreness in his hip and quadriceps. Now, he’ll be sidelined until the practice week heading into the Ravens’ Sept. 10 season opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Jamal has had a good camp so far. Medically, it’s prudent at this point to give him a chance to fully rehab it and get the last bit of soreness — whatever is going on in there — out," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Saturday afternoon. "Between now and the beginning of the season, that’s what our focus is going to be. We’re giving him two weeks to get the proper rehab and crank it up for Tampa Bay."
Lewis emphasized following Thursday night’s 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles that he hadn’t experienced a setback, but said he was still in pain and not at full strength.
"It isn’t all the way gone," said Lewis, who didn’t attend Saturday’s practice and wasn’t available for comment. "I’m still dealing with the injury and soreness, but it’s not so bad that I can’t play. It’s just something I have to work through."
Musa Smith took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense Saturday ahead of veteran newcomer Mike Anderson. Smith leads the entire NFL in rushing yards, having gained 116 yards on eight attempts, including a 43-yard touchdown burst against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s averaging 14.5 yards per carry.
When asked if it was a luxury or a problem to have a full stable of runners, Billick replied: “Too many athletes, too many good players is never a problem. We’re thrilled with the camp Musa is having. We’re going to run the ball 500 times this year. Who carries that 500, I don’t much care.”
PUNTER COMPETITION: There’s still no end in sight to the punting duel between rookie Sam Koch and veteran Leo Araguz, although Koch has taken the majority of the work in games. Neither has distinguished himself with any true consistency, but Koch appears to have the inside track for the job.
The sixth-round draft pick from Nebraska is averaging 36.9 yards on seven punts, one of the worst averages in the league this preseason. Araguz has punted four times for a 37.5 average, also near the bottom of the NFL punting chart.
“There’s a good battle going on with those guys,” Billick said. “They are both getting opportunities. I think we’re getting a pretty good exposure to make our decisions.”
TRAINING ROOM: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (flu), offensive guard Brian Rimpf (hamstring), wide receiver Mark Cherry (dislocated shoulder), safety B.J. Ward (migraines), Araguz and linebacker Jim Cottrell didn’t practice. "I’m not sure what Leo’s status is," Billick said. "To my knowledge, he will be fine on Monday.”
Billick termed Cottrell as a “late no-show,” but didn’t elaborate on what was wrong with the undrafted rookie.
QUICK HITS: This marked the Ravens’ first practice at their training complex after ending camp Wednesday at McDaniel College. “It’s always good to come back to this facility,” Billick said. “I could tell that it was time to break camp.” … Billick continued to defend his curious decision to run the ball on third down in the red zone with no timeouts remaining prior to an aborted field goal attempt where time expired at the end of the first half against Philadelphia. “Part of the mentality on handing the ball off, as we did the week before on second down, if you can get the first down, you leave yourself 10 seconds,” said Billick, adding that the officials apologized for not spotting the football faster for Matt Stover’s attempt. “Now, you have a more calculated chance for the end zone. If you throw underneath, you’re dead. You’re never going to get that bingo field goal. Running the ball in that instance is a prudent thing to do to work the bingo.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.