The Browns’ Jamal Lewis, whose running style is akin to the old adage that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, has bowled over hordes of defenders in a 10-year career that will someday land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now you can add a head coach to his list of victims - his own, first-year boss Eric Mangini.
Lewis, who is set to retire at the end of the year, became the first Brown to really come out and blast Mangini when he said in no uncertain terms before practice on Thursday that the coach is working the players way too hard.
“You’ve got to take care of your players so they’re ready to go on Sunday, or in this case, Monday,” he said as the 1-7 Browns, the losers of three straight, continue to get ready for Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium. “It’s all about making your players ready, fresh and efficient for the games.
“With the way we work in the OTAs, in training camp, two-a-days and in practice (during the season) – 2½ to three hours a day, every day – you want to see some results, some wins, and we’re not seeing that.”
With that, and with Lewis’ opinion that the offensive scheme “is based on the pass, you can see that,” he said “it is a waste of time” for him to be here.
Lewis said he has practiced in full pads more in this half-season “than I have in three or four years combined. I know we have things to work on and you need to do that some, but still…”
Mangini has said he has let up on the players in recent weeks, but when asked if that was indeed the case since the media is not allowed to watch the bulk of practice, Lewis said, “Next question.”
Lewis is an offensive team captain and as such was asked several times if he has taken it upon himself to go into the office of Mangini, who says his door is always open, and discuss these issues. He scoffed at that suggestion.
“It’s not my place, and that’s been the case with any coach I’ve played for,” he said. “My job is to run the football. My job is not to evaluate things and then try to fix the problems that exist.
“Just like he can’t go into one of my businesses and tell me how to run it, I can’t go to him and tell him how to run his team. This is his show. I run my show, and he runs his show.
“If you look at this like it’s a farm, we (the players) are just the crops. We’re just the crops. We’re just the crops. You’ve got to take care of your crops. You’ve got to nurture them. And if you don’t, when it comes harvest time, your crop isn’t going to be any good.”
He said the talent exists for the Browns to be much better than they’ve shown.
“There’s talent all over this locker room – young talent, older talent,” Lewis said. “Sometimes, it’s not the scheme. You’ve got to take your bigger players and get them the ball so they can make big plays.”
Mangini has said several times, including in his daily press conference on Thursday, only about 20 minutes before Lewis spoke, that the back, with his age and experience, has been a great mentor and teacher to the younger players throughout the team. But Lewis despises that role.
“I’m not a babysitter,” he said. “I don’t have time for that. I’ve got to worry about myself. I’ve got my own job to do, to play in the backfield and run the football. I’ve got my own guys to care of in the backfield. I can lead by example.”
Lewis is the hardest worker on the team and probably one of the hardest workers in the NFL when it comes to keeping himself in shape. So for him to criticize Mangini for working the players too hard says volumes.
“Offseason is the time to get in condition, to work hard and prepare your body for the season,” Lewis said. “Once you report back for training camp, that’s not the time. Like I said, it’s all about staying fresh and having efficient players.”
He added, “But you can work me all day and all night, every day. I’m up for it. You can’t break me.”
At no point during the approximately 12-minute session did Lewis have to be prodded to talk. In fact, he seemed happy to answer any and all questions and appeared to be ready to do more of it.
“I’ve got to go to work,” he finally said as he looked at the clock and saw that practice time had neared.
When a reporter said, “We’ll come back tomorrow,” Lewis said, “OK.”
But before that, Mangini will meet with the media on Friday morning. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, he’ll have to say about the matter, and what, if anything, will have changed in the 24-hour period.
Remember, Lewis also criticized the lack of team chemistry and direction after the Browns’ last game, a 30-6 loss in Chicago two weeks ago. His criticism on Thursday was much, much worse. Can it get still worse?