The Cleveland Browns are ten-days into training camp and have yet to be hit hard by injuries and setbacks. There division rival Steelers have been without injured S Troy Polamalu and pro-bowl NT Casey Hampton for the start of camp, Polamalu out with a Hamstring pull and Hampton on the PUP list with weight problems. For the Browns every training camp for the past 10 years has had its share of injuries and distractions.This is a miracle; and perhaps a new beginning for the NFL's most tortured franchise.
One player whose very health could lead Cleveland out of obscurity and into stardom is RB Jamal Lewis. Lewis was marked last season as a guy who's best days were with a Brian Billick lead Baltimore team which was touted as one of the leagues best. Lewis racked up 2,066 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2003 and took home his first ever NFL MVP award, but in 2004, and 2005 Lewis numbers dropped considerably because of injuries and so did his status as an elite back. With Jamal Lewis's health came a question with no answers, but Cleveland GM Phil Savage signed Lewis to a 1-year deal in early 2007 believing that the aged RB still had some gas left in the tank.
In 2007,Lewis didn't just have a "little" left in the tank he had a whole refinery, and used a solid line lead by 1st-round pick T Joe Thomas to gain over 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns his YPA average was his highest since his MVP season in 2003. He also brought veteran leadership and poise to a team searching for an identity on offense, and in the locker room. Lewis brings toughness on the ground and finishes games with less then 3-minutes to go, he came into his second campaign with the browns a leaner and lighter Lewis then in 2007. Lewis dropped some weight and used sand training in the off-season to maximize his quickness and explosive power, look for #31 to break more long runs in 2008.
If Lewis can stay healthy in 2008; look out! With a solid offensive line and pro-bowl receivers in Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards their is too many ways the Browns can beat there opponents, there defense is vastly improved (CB position still a question) with the additions of Shaun Rodgers and Corey Williams who could easily recorded 10 plus sacks a piece. In the end however a championship for Cleveland must be won on the ground not in the air, and for Cleveland fans the "chosen one" might not be Lebron James.