Browns worry about Jamal Lewis’ durability


By STEVE DOERSCHUK

There’s no question they need the big back to revert to his form of 2007.

BEREA — Was the No. 24 rusher in NFL history seeing his life flash before his eyes or just being sarcastic? It was hard to tell.

“Thirty, wow,” Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis said. “Wow.”

The 10th-year pro will turn 30 in three weeks. It’s a number that has been kryptonite for some super backs.

“Hey, I’m just blessed to make it to 30,” Lewis said after practice Monday, “and still be out here on this football field ... and still going strong.”

Lewis is coming off a weak season and offseason “ankle cleanup” surgery.

The Browns can’t be sure rookie James Davis is anywhere close to ready to replace Lewis. Davis weighs in at 210 pounds. If he catches a second wind, Lewis might be a speedy 245-pound workhorse who fits the new regime like a glove.

“You look at the style of offense [Browns coach Eric] Mangini runs,” Lewis said. “It’s made for a big back.”

Jerome Harrison is still around, but he is a smaller back.

Without Lewis approaching the 1,304 rushing yards he put up in 2007, when the Browns went 10-6, can they rebound from a 4-12 shipwreck?

“I’ve been around some 30-year-old backs who played pretty well,” Mangini said. “Sometimes the wisdom combined with the ability produces even better results.”

Mangini was coach of the Jets in 2008 when Thomas Jones, who turned 30 last August, rushed for 1,312 yards.

Mangini is shooting for a physical offensive line that can blast holes inside.

“Downhill running ... that’s what I like to do,” Lewis said.

But can he still do it well? He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2007, his first year with the Browns, but his averages in other recent years were 3.4 in 2005, 3.6 in 2006 and 3.6 in 2008.

Lewis doesn’t seem worried.

“To be where I am, at 10 years in the league, it must be something that I do special that obviously a lot of other guys can’t do,” he said.

Davis, 23, is having a blast in camp, partly because he’s chasing Lewis again. At Frederick Douglas High School in Atlanta, Lewis’ alma mater, Davis rushed for 7,339 yards and 80 touchdowns.

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