Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis' New Rap Song

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Ex-NFL lineman nails Ray Lewis impersonation for Halloween

Former NFL defensive lineman Travis Johnson was no Ray Lewis on the field, but he sure can give Lewis' off-field persona a run for his money. 

Johnson, a former No. 1 pick who spent six seasons with Houston and San Diego, donned a Lewis costume for Halloween and gave a motivational trick-or-treat speech for the ages. Johnson has the look, the mannerisms, and the inflections all down pat. The material was also outstanding because as we all know, "if tomorrow wasn't promised, how would you trick or treat for today?" 

Coincidentally, Lewis was in attendance for Sunday's game and delivered one of his textbook motivational speeches to Ravens players in the locker room before the game. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Baltimore prevailed 29-26 over the Chargers.

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Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis slam Jimmy Graham’s blocking

The day started with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith vs. Kevin Durant. It’s ending with ESPN’s Trent Dilfer and Ray Lewis vs. Jimmy Graham.

Dilfer and Lewis teed off on Graham as a blocker during Monday Night Countdown.

“He’s a fantastic offensive weapon when split out. But when he’s an in-line tight end, it’s not perception, it is fact. He is unwilling and incapable to hold up in the run game as an in-line tight end,” Dilfer said. “He’s more of a spectator than a blocker. They’re averaging zero yards per carry when he lines up as an in-line tight end.”

Dilfer then tried to soften the blow without taking a breath.

“I’m not ripping Jimmy Graham,” Dilfer said, to laughter from Steve Young and Suzy Kolber. “But it’s very important to understand what he is.”

Dilfer then argued that Graham’s involvement in the run game strips the team of its entire identity.

Ray Lewis agreed with Dilfer, saying it’s not an attack on Jimmy before jumping off the top rope.

“He’s a queen tight end. He’s the opposite of what I used to be playing against,” Lewis said, explaining that when Tony Gonzalez played for the Chiefs they would never run to his side of the field.

“When you have this type of deficiency in your offense,” Lewis said, “this can take away your identity without you even knowing it takes away your identity.”

The broader point is that the decision to trade for Graham means that the Seahawks are shifting away from being a power running team. And that point could have been made without attacking Graham. And the mere fact that Dilfer and Lewis said “we’re not attacking Graham” doesn’t change the fact that, indeed, they both attacked him.

It’s almost as if Graham at some point made enemies out of Dilfer and Lewis.

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Ray Lewis texted in middle of 'Monday Night Countdown'

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NFL Players, BB&T Settle Claims Over $53 Million in Lost Deposits

Six current and former NFL players and BB&T reached a confidential settlement in their suit claiming the bank's predecessor accepted improper documents from their financial adviser on accounts that cost the players a combined $53 million in lost deposits.

The players claimed the money was diverted to an Alabama casino venture that failed. NFL players are not allowed to invest in gambling ventures.

"Both parties are pleased to resolve this matter," GrayRobinson attorney David S. Hendrix said in a statement Friday. "We have decided to keep the terms of our settlement confidential and cannot comment further."

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom closed the case Sept. 2 after receiving a notice from attorneys on both sides saying each side would bear its own costs.

The settlement came after a day of testimony in the midst of a second trial. The first was a bench trial that Bloom took under advisement. Testimony was under way in the second trial when the agreement was reached.

Philip Fitzpatrick Jr., who worked for the bank from 2005 to 2012, already had testified BankAtlantic, BB&T's predecessor, testified bank employees didn't always get proper documentation for transfers made from NFL players' accounts.

Pro Sports Financial Inc. managed the finances for the plaintiffs: free agent Santana Moss and retirees Fred Taylor and Lito Sheppard, Ray Lewis, Clinton Portis and Derrick Jabar Gaffney.

Fitzpatrick said Pro Sports management enjoyed "unique" banking privileges.

While a typical customer would have to visit a branch to make a large wire transfer, BankAtlantic accommodated the athletes' busy schedules by allowing Pro Sports to request transfers via email or make seven-figure deposits via FedEx, Fitzpatrick said.

On the stand during the bench trial, Moss testified he didn't examine his own financial affairs until after realizing more than $1.4 million in unauthorized transfers has been made from a bank account in his name. He said he signed away power of attorney to a Pro Sports employee and sent his bank statements to the company without looking over them.

"I heard so much growing up, 'Pay attention to this. Pay attention to that,' " Moss said. "I didn't do it. I let [Pro Sports] pay attention to it. I'm paying for it now."

Moss said he signed a document in January 2006 to open a BankAtlantic account. After a Pro Sports security issue, Moss' bill-paying account was closed and a new one was opened in his name. Moss testified he didn't recognize the signature on the new account paperwork.

The players sought to hold the bank liable for unauthorized transfers by Fort Lauderdale-based Pro Sports.

BB&T was represented by a team of lawyers from GrayRobinson's Tampa office led by Hendrix.

The players were represented by Matthew Brenner, Jim Toscano and Ronald Edwards Jr. of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed in Orlando and Elizabeth Kagan of the Kagan Law Firm in Fort Myers. Brenner didn't respond to a request for comment by deadline.

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Ray Lewis, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss Sue BB&T for Negligence

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom is allowing six current and former NFL players to move ahead with a negligence lawsuit against BB&T Corp. for allegedly allowing unauthorized financial transactions.

In a 51-page order issued July 27, the Fort Lauderdale judge granted summary judgment on numerous counts filed by more than a dozen professional football players against the bank.

However, she allowed negligence claims by Ray Lewis, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Lito Sheppard, Fred Taylor and Derrick Gaffney to move forward.

The case alleges the athletes' former financial management firm, Pro Sports Financial Inc., opened bank accounts in their names with forged signatures and withdrew nearly $53 million without their permission or knowledge.

BB&T was sued because it assumed the liabilities of the former BankAtlantic, which was accused of "aiding and abetting fraud" and failing to act in good faith and reasonable care.

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Ravens' Bisciotti: Super Bowl or not, Ray Lewis would have retired

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was able to ride off into the sunset after winning his second Super Bowl ring, but would he have come back for another season without it?

The answer is no, according to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who sat down for a detailed one-on-one interview with Russell Street Report. 

Lewis spent the bulk of the 2012 season rehabbing a torn triceps tear, missing the final 10 games of the regular season. He worked around the clock with hopes of returning for the playoffs, a move that paid off in spades. 

"(Ray) said he needed to talk to me and told me what he was doing, I remember he told me he didn’t want to tell the team for about a month. When he told me I said, 'Number 1, it’s between us.' He had talked to John, Ozzie and me. I said, 'Do me a favor. Leave yourself time – by us keeping it quiet you have a month to decide before you tell the players.'

"And I said if it’s going to be a month, we’ll keep it close and it will give you an opportunity to change your mind because you have to acknowledge that this is a terrible time to make this decision, when you are grinding back the way you have. To come back from an injury that would have sidelined people for five months and you’re trying to [come back in] 10 weeks."

The constant grind apparently told Lewis that it was also time to hang up his cleats, knowing that he wanted to walk away from the game healthy. 

"You have to understand that while I’ve been training and recovering 20 hours a day I realized that I can’t do it anymore," Bisciotti reported Lewis as saying. "I can’t come back from another injury and I won’t take a chance on walking away hurt. But I know through this rehab that I can’t do it again. And so I’m protecting myself against that inevitability."

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'The Rock' says Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp almost wrestled in Wrestlemania

Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp nearly joined their former Miiami Hurricanes teammate Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson in the ring at Wrestlemania several years back.

Johnson, who is reliving his football days in the new HBO show 'Ballers,' told Dan Patrick on his radio show last week that both Lewis and Sapp came close to partaking in a tag-team match, perhaps along with 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin. 

"We'd gotten very close with having a big match, bringing in Ray Lewis," Johnson said. "And we were gonna have a big tag-team match with myself, Ray Lewis as tag-team partners against whoever the top heels were at the time."

Johnson added that scheduling hurdles couldn't be overcome with the two future Hall of Famers, but noted that both would have been naturals in the ring. 

"Both those guys would've done great in the ring," Johnson said. "And just really, really exceptional athletes."

You can catch the full spot here via The Dan Patrick Show. 

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Jerome Brown and Ray Lewis are on the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot

On Tuesday, the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Hall of Fame announced the names on the 2016 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Among the 76 players on the ballot, two are former Miami Hurricanes.

Former Canes Jerome Brown and Ray Lewis both have a chance to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. The announcement of the 2016 class will be made on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn, the weekend before the 2016 College Football National Championship game in Glendale, Arizona.

Other notable names that will be on the 2016 ballot include 2004 Heisman Trophy Winner Matt Leinart, two-time Florida State All-American Derrick Brooks and former Georgia offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb.

Brown, defensive tackle for the Hurricanes from 1983-1986, led the club to four straight New Year’s Day bowl games. As a senior, Brown was a unanimous First Team All-American and finalist for both the Outland and Lombardi trophies. He currently ranks 10th in Miami school history with 21 career sacks.

Lewis played for Miami from 1993-1995. He was a two-time First-Team All-American (1994, 1995) at linebacker and was a Butkus Award runner-up as a junior.

Lewis helped the Canes to a Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl apperance while he was at Coral Gables. He ranks sixth all-time at Miami in tackles with 388.

Ten former Hurricane players or coaches have been voted into the College Football Hall of Fame: Jack Harding (1980), Andy Gustafson (1985), Ted Hendricks (1987),  Don Bosseler (1990), Bennie Blades (2006), Gino Torretta (2009), Arnold Tucker (2008), Russell Maryland (2011), Jimmy Johnson (2012) and Vinny Testaverde (2013).

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Ray Lewis to release memoir in October

Ray Lewis is releasing a memoir about his childhood, his 17-year football career and the murder charges that threatened to lock him up.

The retired Super Bowl champion Ravens linebacker and ESPN analyst announced Monday that he will release the book, titled "I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory," in October. It is co-written by Daniel Paisner and will be published by Simon & Schuster Publishing.

The memoir is billed as a "player's point of view" of Lewis' career and also promises new insight on "his father abandoning him, his best friend's murder and his own wrongful incarceration."

Lewis and two friends were implicated in the killings of two men in Atlanta after the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta. Murder charges against him were dropped in exchange for testimony against his co-defendants, and he was found guilty of one charge of obstruction of justice.

"Newly retired, Lewis reveals his controversial opinions on the business of football and offers insights about the torturous aspects of the sport that you don't see on television," the announcement said. "From a rookie player accused of murder to arguably the best defensive player in the history of the NFL, Lewis' story is one of triumph and tragedy, tenacity and strength."

Lewis retired in 2013 as the Ravens' all-time career leader in tackles and fumble recoveries. The 13-time Pro Bowler and three-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year runs an eponymous foundation that supports disadvantaged youths in the city.

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Ray Lewis Named Top 50 NFL Draft Pick of All-Time

After watching Ed Reed nab the #50 spot in NFL.com’s top 50 draft picks of all-time, we knew it was only a matter of time before his legendary running mate – Ray Lewis – saw his name pop up on the list.  It took a while, but Lewis has come in at number 22 on what is shaping up to be a pretty incredible list of names.

The Baltimore Ravens selected Ray Lewis at number 26 in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and the move turned out to be worth every penny and more.  Lewis went on to collect 13 Pro Bowl nominations, two Super Bowl rings, and a Super Bowl MVP.  He will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in the history of the NFL, and was a major catalyst for one of the greatest NFL defenses in history.

Ray Lewis spent an incredible 17 years in Baltimore and may never be replaced as the face of the franchise.  He was famous not only for his stellar play on the field, but also his fiery nature and once in a lifetime leadership ability.

Over 228 career games, Lewis piled up 2,050 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, 31 interceptions, and 119 passes defensed.  He rightfully has a place in the upper half of NFL.com’s list, and he will likely remain at the top of Ravens’ fans lists for generations to come.

Coincidentally, the Ravens pick at number 26 again in 2015.  Can lightning strike twice, perhaps?

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Ray Lewis sues former business partner over development project that failed

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has filed a lawsuit against his former attorney and business partner, alleging that he was duped out of more than $1.5 million after lending his name to a development project in Hunt Valley that never materialized.

In the lawsuit, filed against Marc Seldin Rosen in Baltimore Circuit Court, Lewis alleges that he believed he was only lending his name and likeness to the MVP Lanes entertainment complex, a Hunt Valley bowling alley project.

Lewis alleges that Rosen persuaded him to sign a line of credit that the attorney used to obtain $1.5 million for the project, announced in 2009. Lewis said he has been on the hook for the loan and has never been paid back.

The lawsuit, filed late last week, alleges legal malpractice, breach of contract and fraud, among other counts. Lewis' current attorney, Steven Freeman of Towson, declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Rosen did not return a call seeking comment.Jeffrey M. Kotz, an attorney who represented MVP Lanes LLC during the project, said in a statement that the allegations are false and that Lewis was "integrally involved from the outset" and "knowingly made his financial commitments."
"The MVP project was a business venture that failed, but that does not justify Mr. Lewis rewriting history in a lawsuit," Kotz said.

Lewis and Rosen worked together for years, and Rosen was a member of the board of directors for Lewis' nonprofit foundation.

The sports-themed development project was to include a bowling alley, an arcade and restaurants, with visions of it becoming a national chain. At the time, Lewis was said to have a majority stake, with Rosen and Rosen's wife as minority partners.

"Instead of putting on a helmet, you put on a tie and a suit," Lewis said in 2009 about the project. "That's where my next phase in life is going — the building and giving back to who we are in this world."

In the lawsuit, Lewis says he only lent his "name and likeness to the project for the purpose of attracting potential investors and promoting the project."

"Lewis then inquired whether his proposed involvement with the project would carry with it any potential negative legal and/or financial ramifications, and was assured by Rosen that it would not and that Lewis' own money would never be touched," the lawsuit states.

Lewis alleges that in early 2010, with the project in need of financing, Rosen persuaded him "unwittingly" to take out a line of credit that Rosen used to obtain $1.5 million, according to the suit. Lewis says he again was assured that he wouldn't have to lend any money to the project or be responsible for any losses.

Another $200,000 was obtained in January 2011 and transferred to an account related to the project, Lewis says in the suit. Rosen made interest payments on the loan until 2013, at which point he stopped and Lewis was required to make them to avoid default.

MVP is now out of business, and the project has been abandoned.

The project's troubles were apparent by 2012, with subcontractors filing suit against MVP and MVP suing a New England financier for failing to deliver on funds.

The financier was ordered in 2011 to give MVP $90,000, the amount the company had deposited into a trust in hopes of securing a $65 million line of credit that never materialized.

Lewis retired in 2013 and has been working as a contributor to ESPN. Before the MVP project, he opened a barbecue restaurant in Canton that closed four years later.

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Ray Lewis On His New Show and How He Hopes It Will Improve Lives

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, current ESPN analyst and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has moved on to new challenges in life.

One of those is hosting a new reality show for Spike TV, Coaching Bad, where Lewis teams up with Dr. Christian Conte to help nine youth coaches shed anger issues and become better coaches and people. Lewis wants to take on the "growing epidemic" of coaches with major anger issues that pervades youth sports more each day.

Lewis recently sat down with me to chat about the show.

Bleacher Report: What was the inspiration for the show? 
Ray Lewis: Funny you should ask that—we went around a few times until we landed on the concept of the show and the direction we wanted to go with the show. It was interesting—I was kind of head over heels of excitement. [Anger in coaching] is a huge issue in this world.

When it came to it, I was like “That’s a great topic.” We will always have players and coaches that will have that at some level. I look at it as a great thing. Some people look it as coaches and players, but I look it as pure relations to people.

B/R: Why do you think so many coaches go down the path of negativity?
Lewis: I think what we’re trying to figure out as a sporting culture is: Why do people treat people a certain way? The bottom line of the show is relationships. It’s about people relating to people.

When you get to the show, one thing you’ll find interesting is that a lot of the coaches were bringing out things from their past. They were taking things out of their past and taking it out on their kids. My issue for really doing this show is, “How can you willingly treat kids like this? How can you send that kid home, not knowing what he’s going home to or what situation he or she is in?”

Ultimately you’re parenting these kids. If you give them a bunch of curse words [or other negativity] you might inspire them to go out and do something else. That’s why I think we need to figure out what the real issue is and why so many coaches go out on this road to belittle children. 

B/R: Who were some of your favorite coaches throughout your career? 
Lewis: My high school coach—coach Ernest Joe—was probably the guy who became the greatest father figure in my life. I didn’t have much. I couldn’t get home from school every day. There were certain things he would sacrifice to go above and beyond. When I got to University of Miami—Dennis Erickson and Randy Shannon, the linebacker coach, they were great coaches. Maxie Baughan, he was the top of the food chain [in Baltimore] with how he would talk to players. My rookie year he would have conversation with me, even knowing I was young, when I was trying to do too much, he would always bring me back to a simple conversation.

Probably one of the coaches who I will always respect for the way he coached was Jack Del Rio. Me and Jack would have pure conversations. I can go down the line—Rex [Ryan] was like that. Mike Nolan was like that. I had a good coaching tree of coaches who did it that way. If you want to talk to me, talk to me. Don’t yell at me, I’m not a kid.

And that’s why I look at it as a real problem—they’re talking to kids like that. I remember the cursing and the different things they used to make you do. But a lot of times you’re sending these kids back into situations

B/R: You look at the coaches in the Super Bowl—Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. Different styles and approaches. What do you see in them that makes them successful? 
Lewis: When you think about Pete or Bill, it’s their structure. It’s their infrastructure of the way their system is run. That’s what you respect the most, definitely when you talk about a Bill Belichick-run team it’s going to be a flawless structure. Under his tutelage it’s going to be very rare to have something out of place. That’s why he’s going up against Pete Carroll, who is a finely oiled machine as well.

Both of these teams are fine teams by the coaches’ mentality. That’s why I think when you watch this game boil down to the fourth quarter, the mentality of these coaches and their influence on the league is going to stand out.

B/R: Do you think coaches with anger issues undermine the potential good football and other sports do?
Lewis: I do. Because people talk about the game of football and how bad it can be, this and that. The game of football not only gave my family life—a different life—it gave me the discipline and structure that is part of the reason that I’m the man I am today. That’s my point of saying the game itself—the ups and downs—they will correct you yourself. I get it, emphasis on things as a coach, but there’s a way to do everything. There’s a way to talk to people like a human being!

These kids are spending more time with these coaches than they’re spending with their parents sometimes, and you ask yourself, “If we’re supposed to be the future and we’re the father figures, then don’t brand them in that way!” The game can teach you a lot. It’s a military-style structure to where everything is structured.

Now I’d never compare it to the military because that’s life and death, but there are things that happen in the game that are life-changing. The game itself is enough of a roller coaster. The message should be clear on what this show is trying to do, and that is—mothers and fathers—understand who is coaching your kids. Spend some time with who is coaching your kids. It might shock the heck out of you.

B/R: You’re known for your passion. How do you channel that in a positive way?
Lewis: I don’t take away passion. I love passion. I love for a coach to be passionate. I love energy. All I’m saying is there is a level that we all understand is way too much. When you’re talking about kids, the level I’m talking about is—I don’t care who you are—no coach who is coaching kids should ever curse a kid.

When you start affecting other people’s futures [in a negative way], that’s when you’ve missed the point. That’s when you’ve missed your calling to be a father or mother figure. We let the title get in the way. Being a “coach” doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. You can figure out ways to teach kids. It’s not about wins and losses—they’re a dime a dozen. When you take away character—if you realize respect your elders, or we can get through it—there are so many ways to get through to people. They know nothing about people issues.

Everybody has an opinion. If the opinion is really real, I ask the coaches, “Take a step back—would you want someone treating your child this way? Would you let another man treat your child or put their hands on your child the way you’re doing it?” Once again, it’s about relationships. It’s about figuring out a way to talk to people without belittling them.

B/R: Dr. Conte calls you one of the greatest motivators on the planet Earth. Do you view yourself that way? How do you get here?
Lewis: I got there through a lot of pain. Persecution. And God with every step in my life. My speeches come from a direct connection. There is nothing I say that I say to be light. I’m sharing knowledge because it is to be gained, then shared. When you understand why I’m really doing it, it’s because somebody has to. I go places that people rarely go—the gut of guts. What life is in this world and how much time in this world we worry about everybody else.

I don’t want to be liked. I want to be respected. Because if you like me you can throw me away too quick. If you respect me, you may not even like what I was wearing, but you’ll say, “I respect that.” I just believe your greatest motivational speakers are able to get someone to view their life—their situation—differently. That’s where my passion comes from, a very deep-rooted place that I will never let a judgment of people or this world ever dictate my happiness.

That’s where my speeches come from. I couldn’t care less what others think. If you’ve spent a lot of time with me, there’s a bunch of things I don’t do. If I’m gonna speak to you, I’m gonna do it from the way I see it or view it. There are gonna be a few nuggets in there that you’ll need to grab and run with it. I have to go back to my room and get to a quiet place after my speeches.

Nobody realizes the energy that comes out of me—it’s draining. You spend so much time trying to get someone to understand it. I just want to see people attempt to do it right. 

B/R: Did you learn anything from your time with these nine coaches?
Lewis: I’m really glad you asked that question.

What I learned the most—a lot of these coaches are dealing with what a large percentage of our country deals with: past pain. Things from their past that they have never gotten over. Things—some abuse, the way your father treated you or what he said to you—that, when you’re watching this show is that a whole bunch of people are going to have to do a real reality check with themselves.

Man, these problems are deeply rooted. The kids aren’t the issue. The issue is that there are things inside of you that you need to get out! If you don’t address these issues, you can’t get better. When you try to help people become a better person, you’re going to have to find out what’s really going in their world. Did someone beat them or do something to them that they didn’t like?

It wowed me. “We’re here with these coaches, but how did they get here?” I started to say to myself, “Man, can you imagine the people and the kids that suffer because of someone’s past pain?” When you see the show you’re going to see a very intriguing part in the show because a lot of those in life.

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Ray Lewis says Patriots should have an asterisk next to Super Bowl win

After saying the tuck rule was the " only reason we know Tom Brady ," the former Raven is back with more to say about the New England team. On ESPN's Pro Bowl pregame show, Lewis mentioned the warning the NFL gave Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch regarding his gold cleats , and mentioned the Patriots wins are tainted at this point.

"Marshawn Lynch, the league clearly said to him, 'If you come out of the tunnel with those shoes on, we will not only suspend you for this game, but we will suspend you for the Super Bowl.' Now we're back at another place where we let a team go into an AFC championship, and if it's proven that they played with deflated balls ... because if it's not cheating, then the Colts should have had the same option to play with the same balls. So we're at a place now where we're going to celebrate an organization once again, put an asterisk by it, because they went into a championship game."

Lewis was once under national attention for something other than the hard hits he delivered on the field. The former linebacker has been accused of murder, and later cheating by using a banned substance . He's not the first person that comes to mind when honesty and integrity are brought up.

For those who think his comments are merely based on his former, and perhaps still current, rivalry with the Patriots, he reassures that is not the reason.

“Every time we talk about the Patriots, you have the Patriots fans … you get all the talk about the jealousy of them and all that," Lewis said. "I won two Super Bowls, I’ve been Defensive Player of the Year, I’ve been MVP of the Super Bowl, I’ve went to New England and won so I’m not jealous of them at all."

Lewis does have all of that going for him, but his rant has a "people who live in glass houses" type of vibe.

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Ray Lewis backtracks from his comments about Tom Brady

Ray Lewis isn’t quite finished talking about the Tuck Rule.

After Tom Brady brushed off the former Ravens’ player’s comments that “we only know who Tom Brady is because of the Tuck Rule”, Lewis backtracked a bit on Twitter:

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Tom Brady takes the high road when asked about Ray Lewis

FOXBORO, Mass. – Three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady took the high road Thursday in response to a statement by former defensive adversary Ray Lewis that the 2002 tuck rule controversy is the “only reason” we know who Brady is.

Before practice for Sunday’s AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts, the quarterback of the New England Patriots said he’d been informed about Lewis’ remarks by the Patriots media relations department.

“Yes, they told me that, yeah, everyone has an opinion,” said Brady.

“I think Ray’s a great player. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. I was fortunate enough to play against him.”

Lewis, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and now ESPN analyst, mentioned Brady Tuesday on Sirius XM Mad Dog Radio.

“When we, the first time we created something called a tuck rule, it’s the only reason we know, I’m just being honest, the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, because of a tuck rule,” Lewis said on the Stephen A. Smith show.

“There’s no such thing as a tuck rule! If the ball is in your hand, and I knock it out your hand, whether it’s going backwards, forwards, lateral, sideways, however it’s coming out, that’s a freaking fumble.”

The play occurred Jan. 19, 2002, in the Patriots’ 16-13 overtime win against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC playoffs.

With the Patriots trailing by three late in regulation, Brady was in the act of passing when he cut short his throwing motion and pulled the ball down. Defensive back Charles Woodson knocked the ball out of the Brady’s hands and the officials ruled Oakland had recovered the fumble.

After video review, it was ruled an incomplete pass under the tuck rule, which said any forward movement of the arm starts a pass and that it was an incomplete pass “even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body.”

Adam Vinatieri kicked a tying 45-yard field goal for the Patriots in the snow and they won in overtime on a 23-yard Vinatieri field goal.
The tuck rule was eliminated after the 2013 season.

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Ray Lewis: Tom Brady Is Only Known Because Of The Tuck Rule

BOSTON (CBS) — Ray Lewis spent 17 years toiling in the NFL, building himself a surefire Hall of Fame resume in the process. Because of that work on the field, Lewis is now a full-time football analyst, working for ESPN and dispensing his thoughts every week on the events of the NFL.

Sometimes, that endeavor works out, and other times it does not.

And if there’s one thing that’s evident in the opinions expressed by the former linebacker, it’s this: thick, purple Baltimore Ravens blood still coursesicon1 through his veins.

That much was clear on Tuesday, when he joined Stephen A. Smith’s show on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio. Lewis was talking about the controversial incompletion ruling on Dez Bryant over the weekend, and perhaps because he still feels the sting of seeing the Patriots beat his Ravens, Lewis took the opportunity to try to tear down Tom Bradylb_icon1.

(Please excuse the punctuation. It’s difficult to punctuate Ray Lewis sentences.)

“Listen, not to go all totally out of conscious [I believe he meant ‘context’], but just think about this, Stephen A., honest to God,” Lewis said. “When we — the first time we created something called a tuck rule, it’s the only reason we know — I’m just being honest! — the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, because of a tuck rule! There’s no such thing as a tuck rule! If the ball is in your hand, and I knock it out your hand, whether it’s going backwards, forwards, lateral, sideways, however it’s coming out, that’s a freaking fumble!

“But guess what we created? We created a freaking tuck rule!”

Hearing Lewis say that the tuck rule is the only reason we know about a man who’s won three Super Bowls, has twice been named NFL MVP (including the first-ever unanimous MVP), has made 10 Pro Bowls, has three times been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Year, owns the best winning percentage of all time and has been the one constant on the field in arguably the longest sustained run of success any one team has endured in NFL history … Stephen A. Smith had to ask: Did you really just say that?

“They don’t go to that championship game — they don’t go to that championship game if that tuck rule, if that ball is not called a tuck! That’s a fumble!” Lewis shouted. “Charles Woodson made that man clearly fumble the ball and they named it the tuck rule, something that we’ve never heard in today’s game. So now you’ve got to ask yourself: When did the legacy really start?”

Obviously, Lewis is saying that if Brady had not been bailed out by the tuck rule, then the Patriots don’t go on to face Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game, and they don’t beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI the following week, and then, who knows? Maybe the Patriots still would have won in 2003 and ’04, but Lewis believes it’s worth wondering if the Patriots dynasty ever would have come to be if not for that fateful ruling by referee Walt Coleman.

Of course, Lewis is leaving out the fact that despite his insistence that “there’s no such thing as a tuck rule,” the tuck rule did very much exist. It was put into place in 1999, and even after the famous play involving Brady, it remained on the books until 2013. In fact, the Patriots found themselves on the other side of the tuck rule earlier in that 2001 season, when a fumble was ruled to be an incomplete pass in a game they eventually lost to the Jets.

There’s also the fact that since that Tuck Rule Game, Tom Brady has been pretty damn good at football. Chances are, we would’ve heard of the guy by now, tuck rule or no tuck rule.

Yet it was, indeed, a real rule, despite Lewis’ belief that it appeared out of thin air to help the Patriots. Much like Terrell Suggs’ insistence that it was Brady’s injury and not Carson Palmer’s that prompted stricter rules for hitting quarterbackslb_icon1, Lewis’ comments reek of contempt, born from that special kind of hatred that’s existed between the Ravens and the Patriots over the past few years.

But as Lewis tells it, he’s just a regular old historian.

“See man, look, I’m a football historian. I love moments. I love moments,” he said. “See, a lot of people watch just the TV from the game and say, ‘Oh, that’s wrong, that’s wrong!’ Go back to the moment from when things started. That’s what I’m telling you we’re creating. When I came into this league there was no such thing as a defenseless player. There was no such thing, Steve! … Man, there are certain rules that should not be allowed to be in this game of football. That’s just the bottom line.”

He continued: “I’m just saying, listen, listen, I only speak about this because I did this. See, it’s one thing when you hear people talk; I did this, Steve. And what I’m telling you is, there’s a bunch of rules in our game that does not belong in our game. … If I’m the commissioner, I leave the game alone. I tell people, ‘Don’t bring me no rules that does not make sense in my game!’ And a defenseless receiver, that don’t make sense in my rules, in my game.”

So there you have it. Lewis has spoken. Normally, the two future Hall of Famers speak pretty highly of one another. But when Lewis is asked to talk about the Cowboys, it’s apparently too difficult for him to resist the urge to try to tear down Brady.

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Ray Lewis III to Transfer from Miami to Coastal Carolina

Ray Lewis III is done following in his dad's footsteps. 

According to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, the son of former University of Miami star Ray Lewis has decided to transfer from the Hurricanes to Coastal Carolina.

Lewis III posted a picture of Coastal Carolina's mascot on his Instagram account with the following caption: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, if opportunity doesn't knock... build a door!#Round2"

He was recruited as a running back but switched to cornerback during his first season on campus, which he redshirted. Even with the position change, though, he never saw the field, playing zero snaps in 2014. 

As the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro noted, the new environment—and fresh start—could be exactly what he needs:

The Chanticleers had an impressive 2014 season, finishing 11-2 with a trip to the FCS quarterfinals. While Lewis should be able to find playing time, he shouldn't take anything for granted at the very solid program. 

As for Miami, transfers are never good to see after 6-7 seasons, but these kinds of things happen when kids aren't seeing the field. While its disappointing to lose the son of a school legend, it shouldn't prove detrimental to Al Golden's team. 

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Michael Phelps gets support from 'close friend' Ray Lewis in court appearance

BALTIMORE – When the Ray Lewis statue was unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium in September, Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps was there to salute his friend and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker.

Friday, Lewis was in the courtroom in a show of support for Phelps as he entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence and was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation.

Lewis sat in a wooden bench row with Phelps’ mother, Debbie. Lewis gave her a kiss on the cheek before the proceeding as Phelps sat in the row in front of them, awaiting his turn In Baltimore City District Court.

Lewis was not available afterward, but during his statue unveiling earlier this year, he singled out Phelps in the crowd.

“A warrior from every level, I love you to death Michael Phelps,” Lewis said.

Outside the courthouse Friday, Phelps’ attorney, Steve Allen, thanked Lewis for coming.

“Mr. Lewis and Mr. Phelps are very close friends,” said Allen.

“Mr. Phelps appreciated the support of Mr. Lewis by being here today. They speak frequently, and it really speaks highly of Ray Lewis that he would come here in support of his close friend.”

In 2001, Lewis pleaded guilty to a reduced, misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and was placed on 12 months probation. The charge stemmed from two stabbing deaths outside an Atlanta night club following the Super Bowl. Lewis was originally charged with two counts of murder, but those charges were dropped.

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Ray Lewis brings ‘Coaching Bad’ to Spike in February

Former NFL star Ray Lewis will join anger management specialist Dr. Christian Conte on Spike in Coaching Bad. They’ll work with nine coaches who can’t turn off their angry, profane ways even away from the fields they coach on. Conte is a licensed counselor, author and professional speaker.

Lewis, of course, was famous for his leadership and motivation of the Baltimore Ravens. He rebuilt his image after being implicated in a double murder, and now has an ESPN gig as well as Coaching Bad. Lewis also mentored disgraced former Raven Ray Rice and wait, why did they pick Lewis to host this again? Anyhow, here’s a trailer:

Among the guest speakers lined up for this offering are Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, NBA star Glen “Big Baby” Davis and retired NFL troublemaker Bill Romanowski. Spike has ordered eight one-hour installments of Coaching Bad. If this is a success, look for other Spike shows that riff on the titles of popular dramas. If only someone had thought to repackage TNA Wrestling as Grappling Bad! Or perhaps, Bad Men?

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Warren Sapp, Jerome Brown, Ray Lewis among CFB HOF candidates

Eric Dickerson, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis and NFL Network's Warren Sapp are among the 193 candidates on the 2015 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

There are 75 players and six coaches from the FBS ranks and 87 players and 25 coaches from the small-school ranks on the ballot.

Joining Sapp, Dickerson, Lewis and Johnson as FBS candidates are Brian Bosworth, Randall Cunningham, Kirk Gibson (a star at Michigan State before choosing baseball), Cade McNown, Zach Thomas, Ricky Williams and Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who was a star linebacker at California. Among the candidates in the small-school group are former NFL players Marlin Briscoe, Mark Cotney and Don Griffin, as well as Gary Wichard, a former high-profile agent. The entire list of the 193 candidates is here.

The announcement of the 2015 class will be made Jan. 9, in advance of the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

From the National Football Foundation website: "To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a first-team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate's post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed."

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Ray Lewis partners with Juvent Sports

Retired Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive  Player of the Year and former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, has partnered with Juvent Sports.

Juvent is a micro-impact platform sports technology device designed to help athletes recover faster from workouts and aid in pain relief and get the body warmed up for optimal performance.

"It's really changed the way I actually warm up before I do anything," Lewis said in a telephone interview. "When I was introduced to Juvent, the first time I actually listened to the science behind, standing on Juvent, when I get off it, there's some pop now. When I started cycling and lift more, I started to recognize fairly quickly how fast I was recovering. It was really what I was starting to feel when I actually started to live with Juvent as my morning and night, morning and night routine.

"It almost becomes addictive because you understand what it's doing for you. People might stretch a little, they might do yoga, but a lot of that is on the outer surface. Nothing really wakes you up from the inside. You get on these other machines and the vibrations are so rough it almost makes you sore because you can't stand on those things long.When you stand on Juvent, it became an every-day necessity. You can really help people."

Lewis, who retired following the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory and is now an ESPN analyst, said he's seen major benefits from using Juvent to help his muscles recover faster and eliminate fatigue. Lewis said he feels more explosive and energetic than ever before.

Ideally, Lewis would like to see Juvent in every NFL locker room and training room.

"That's definitely one of my pitches," Lewis said. "You see so many guys with so many lower body injuries just recently at the beginning of the season, it's blowing my mind. You've got to do something to try to stop some of these injuries. If you can put Juvent in locker rooms, so guys can wake up the body properly. It's so important to be on Juvent before and after games. What I've learned so much being retired is that recovery is the key."

The way Juvent Pro works is it delivers thousands of low-magnitude and high-frequency pulses through the heels of the feet that move up through the body. The intent is to stimulate muscles and bones to promote circulation, joint health and healing through as little as 10 minutes per day. Juvent has partnered with the NFL Alumni Association as an official provider.

"This is a product that if there had been something like this when I was playing, it could have taken me to a totally different level," Lewis said. "It's made me appreciate retirement without so many aches and pains. I just think Juvent has a real opportunity to impact not just the sporting world, but anybody going through aches and pains.

"We're talking about the pure science of waking the body up from the inside and getting things to fire that honestly might not in a lifetime. Every muscle and fiber is what you get on Juvent. You really get attached to Juvent because it did something for my body to make it wake up and starting recovering. The ultimate key is how the body can recover. It can help many, many people."

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Ray Lewis Almost Drafted By Packers

It's debatable whether there would be a street named after him around Lambeau Field, or perhaps a huge statue of his likeness erected there instead, but Ray Lewis came literally a few moments away from being a Green Bay Packer, and, we can only imagine, therefore a Packer legend.

Lewis was on the phone with the Packers' front office at the time the Baltimore Ravens were selecting in 1996, one spot ahead of Green Bay. It was about to be the moment the Packers thought would be the culmination of months spent working on the undersized linebacker out of the University of Miami, a charge led in the field by scout John Dorsey. They were fairly certain they had him, and then in a moment, a novice -- and soon to be legendary -- general manager swooped in and made the pick with the Ravens deep into their allotted time, at selection No. 26 of the 1996 draft.

Ozzie Newsome nabbed Lewis, who would become the singular face and identity of the Ravens franchise, leading it to two Super Bowls, including an improbable charge to a Lombardi Trophy in 2012 after returning from a near season-ending injury and announcing his retirement.

We can only wonder how different the AFC and NFC might have been had Ron Wolf gone ahead and traded up a few spots to make sure he got his man. Ray Lewis: Green Bay Packer. Sounds strange to hear, yet how fitting might it have been. As much as he personifies the Ravens -- a franchise trying to emerge from its move to Baltimore from Cleveland at the time -- how great a fit would he have been with one of the league's iconic franchises, roaming sideline to sideline where the likes of Ray Nitschke once did. It was closer to happening than almost anyone would think.

'Not my finest moment'

"We had his agent on the phone as I recall it, and we had Ray Lewis on the phone," Wolf said, still unable to recount the situation all these years later without stopping several times to verbally rebuke himself. "I think there was less than a minute to go. We already had his name in; our guy standing there at the [draft table in New York] was on the phone with his name in.

"And then of course we heard that Baltimore selects Ray Lewis, linebacker from the University of Miami. And that was not my finest moment. There is a period when you're going through the draft process and you're in that draft mode so to speak. There is a real tension there. There's a tightness there. It's all the things that make it so exciting. And you have to keep above board at all times, and kind of like the saying goes, 'You've got to keep your game face on.' "

There is a certain agony in Wolf's voice as he reaches back to the 1996 draft. Missing out on Lewis sent him into a brief spiral. "The air went out of the room," is how Dorsey, now the Chiefs general manager, recalls the aftermath in the Green Bay war room. Wolf is still not at peace with letting Lewis slip away, and at this point, long retired and revered as one of the best evaluators of his time, I guess he never will be.

"With about a minute to go [with the Ravens on the clock], I kind of breathed a sigh of relief," Wolf said, as the Packers war room started to build with excitement that Lewis was going to fall right to them. "It was not my finest hour after that. There were so many things I could have done differently. I've played it back and forth in my mind so many times, what I should have done and didn't do.

"The end result is we win the Super Bowl that year, but it was not my finest time with the Packers. As one gets older you have a chance to review the things you did over the course of your career that were idiotic and stupid, and this is one of those things."
'Ozzie is Ozzie'

You almost feel bad each time a follow-up question arises on the topic, like you are making someone pick at an old wound that won't heal, but the magnitude of what Wolf was so close to achieving -- and what it might have meant to the resurgent Packers franchise (Ray Lewis playing with Reggie White and Brett Favre, for example) -- is impossible to ignore. The Packers, given their unique ownership structure in Green Bay, by design had a large war-room contingent. There were executive committee members assembled, board members, and a large cast of scouts and coaches as well. It was no secret they were locked in on Lewis at this point. Wolf was by no means the only distraught party when Newsome made his prescient selection.

As Wolf and Dorsey recall it, director of pro personnel Ted Thompson -- now the Packers' longtime GM who has won a Super Bowl of his own in that position -- was instructed to get Lewis on the phone early. "At that time the clock is counting down and you say, 'Let's just get him on the phone,'" Dorsey said. "It looks like by all indications he's going be it. And Ron asked Ted to go get Ray Lewis on the phone so we got him on the phone and the room is getting all excited. We're going to get Ray Lewis ..."

This is where, of course, there are regrets all around. This is where so many men wish time could stop for an instant. Wolf, Dorsey, Thompson, another young Packers personnel assistant at the time named John Schneider, who would go on to build Seattle into a Super Bowl-winner, and pro personnel assistant Reggie McKenzie (now Oakland's GM) all were in Green Bay's personnel department at the time. "Reggie and I were on the pro side," Schneider said. "So we weren't really involved at the time. But we were in the room. It's funny, you would hear so many people say, 'He's too small.' But man, what a player."

From time to time, some of them wonder if maybe they could have done something a little different in that room, pushed harder and sooner for Wolf to trade up. Anything.

"I was probably a little bit young to the system, and how to work the system, and how to help orchestrate a trade," Dorsey said. "My job at the time was trying to present the facts of the player to the general manager and do my best to convince him this guy was a pretty good player … And, my God, we had him on the phone and we're all thinking we've got him. No one expected Ozzie to pull the trigger and when you did your research, he wasn't going to take a linebacker. But Ozzie is Ozzie and he's going to pick a good player, and Ozzie saw Ray Lewis."

In the meantime, Newsome, about to orchestrate one of the signature drafts in modern NFL history, was merely taking his time. Lewis was the pick, but patience was the rule.

"I don't recall getting any calls that made us seriously consider trading the pick," Newsome said. "I think we used a lot of the clock because that's just what we did back then -- just waiting to see if something happens. I think Ron and I talked about it years later, but I wasn't aware of how much the Packers loved Ray at the time."

'I should have traded up'

What Newsome was focused on was filling out a depleted roster and trying to reinvent the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore. Truth be told, he had his eye on another inside linebacker the Ravens had rated higher than Lewis -- Reggie Brown from Texas A&M. But he went off the board at pick No. 17 to the Detroit Lions. Even back then, Newsome adopted his now tried-and-true edict of taking the best player regardless of position, unless there was a tie of sorts in the grade, so as pick No. 26 approached and Lewis lingered, the decision was coming into focus.

"Ray was the next-highest graded player on our board," Newsome said, "and it was a position of need for us. We needed young inside linebackers who could play now. We were in salary-cap hell, and we were going to have to depend on young players."

Wolf is still angry for not moving up a few spots, for not assuming Newsome would see all of the same traits in Lewis -- athleticism, superb football intellect, innate playmaking ability, the willingness to play much bigger and stronger than his frame would dictate -- that the Packers fell in love with. "I should've traded up," Wolf said. He wasn't one to go crazy with mock drafts, and didn't recall having a particular sense on what the Ravens might do one pick before him. "I was not a guy who spent a lot of time on the phone wondering what everybody else was doing," Wolf said. "I had enough problems figuring out what I was going to do."

Once Baltimore snatched up Lewis, Wolf concedes, he was reeling. Even if only for a spell, he was off his game. He had an opportunity to trade out of the first round entirely, as well, and wishes he had. Instead Green Bay selected the only other player left that they had graded as a first-rounder, offensive lineman John Michels from USC. Michels was out of the NFL by 1999 after a series of knee issues.

"I had a chance to trade that pick, and I should have done that," Wolf said, bubbling up into another self-inflicted verbal flogging. "It was not my finest hour. I kind of fell apart, because that edge that you have, in that particular moment, I let it get away, because I thought we had Ray Lewis, and I ended up not having Ray Lewis." Maybe it wouldn't sting quite as much had he dealt out of the round -- the Redskins had an intriguing package on the table. "I should have just traded out entirely," Wolf said.

There was a real sting for Dorsey as well, who had spent more time with Lewis than probably anyone else in the Packers organization. Lewis became a prized assignment for him, and while some in the scouting community thought Lewis might amount to more bluster than greatness at the next level, and were blinded by what their stopwatches showed them (Lewis was hardly a blazer), and what the scale presented (he was undersized for sure), Dorsey was convinced he would be an impact player in the NFL.

Serendipity turns sour

As Green Bay became increasingly smitten with Lewis, Wolf dispatched Dorsey to head down to the University of Miami to work Lewis out, and try to gather as much as he could about what made the young man tick, how driven he was, any intangible information he could cull to supplement the numbers and measurements.

"I went down to work him out, and he's like 238 pounds and he runs like a 4.71 [40-yard dash]," Dorsey said, telling the story only a few hours after his mentor, Wolf, had left his two-day visit to Chiefs camp to catch up with his old pupil. "But it was the way he carried himself. He walked on the field and you see this statuesque guy and he had a very good workout. My god, a wonderful workout, and then we sat and talked for a half hour and he tells me a little about his family, his upbringing and why he came to Miami, and I walked away impressed like, 'My God, this guy could be a really good pick.'"

What transpired next, in hindsight, looks like a thunderbolt from the football gods that went unheeded. It still seemed like a sign from above that Dorsey needed to land Ray Lewis if at all possible.

Dorsey headed to the Florida Turnpike after his visit with Lewis and stopped at a roadside area to eat. As he walked through the doors, he saw three young men walk in. Guess who? "I'm going like, 'Hey, Ray, how are you doin'?'" Dorsey said. " 'What a small world meeting you here.'" So they spent another 25 minutes or so together, eating lunch, chatting, and Dorsey is thinking, "I mean, this is divine intervention, baby, striking right down here."

After Lewis left, Dorsey ran to the nearest pay phone (again, this was 1996) to give Wolf an update and share his impromptu, serendipitous lunch date. He was fully on board the Lewis bandwagon by this point, but alas, it wasn't to be. "I'm like, this is awesome, this possibly could happen," Dorsey said, "and then all of a sudden on draft day you watch it unfold and it's, 'My God, this is going to happen,' and then all of a sudden the Wizard of Oz strikes and takes him from us."

Lewis was the second first-ballot Hall of Famer Newsome grabbed in that first round of his first draft in charge of the Ravens, taking hulking left tackle Jonathan Ogden fourth overall, in what will always figure to be the most influential round in that franchise's history. It may never be topped. But had Wolf followed his instinct more closely and been a bit more decisive, it may never have been. That summer, when the Ravens hosted Green Bay for a preseason game at old Memorial Stadium, watching Lewis closely from the pressbox, Dorsey truly knew greatness had slipped away. "You could see as a rookie how those guys already gravitated to him," he said.

Wolf may never allow himself to fully live it down, and Dorsey knows it still pains the mastermind, no matter how many excellent rosters he built. Newsome -- now the dean of NFL general managers -- has been on all sides of it, recalling in 2007 how the Ravens thought they had future All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley all lined up as their pick, only to have the 49ers move up with the Patriots to grab him. It happens. It's part of the business. But some near-misses sting more than others. Some, you never forget.

"You look back at the magnitude of that player," Dorsey said. "I'm sure it still leaves a pit in his stomach."

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Ray Lewis remembers his mother being beaten when considering Ra

This is the second time this week that Lewis has spoken on the Rice situation on ESPN. Lewis was a star for the Ravens and knows the running back well.

On ESPN's "Monday Night Football" pregame show, Lewis said his previous legal situation, in which he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection to a double murder, was not the same as Rice's.

"Me speaking with the owner of the Ravens, Steve Bisciotti, just moments ago," Lewis said, "and just listening to what Steve was saying about the reason why Ray Rice will never play for the Ravens again is because when he saw this video himself, he put anybody that's connected to him that's a female in that position. You have to take a step back when you're an owner and you see that type of evidence that you haven't heard before, haven't seen before.

"One thing Steve made very clear: There is no comparison of me and Ray Rice. It's night and day. It's night and day of anything we've ever been through. And that's why both situations are totally different."

On the Monday night program, Lewis said he planned to speak with Rice.

"Sometimes friends tell you what you want to hear," Lewis said. "Best friends tell you what you need to hear. I told him, 'I will be there to talk to him.' I really want to sit down and know what's going on in his heart and what's next for Ray Rice. I'm not talking about football. I'm talking about as a man. 'Where is your focus right now?' Me and him have been going back and forth via text. I wanted to let him know I'm still encouraged. A lot of fire and darkness are coming at you, but you have to stand still in the midst of this storm. How do you find your way out of this? You humble yourself. You figure out ways to get yourself out of this and you seek counsel. That's why I'm going home to definitely meet with him to be the same mentor I was the first time he walked through the door."

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Ray Lewis Has Strong Words For Rice, Reminded Of His 2000 Murder Trial

Ray Lewis and Ray Rice played together on the Baltimore Ravens for five seasons.  Ray Lewis is said to have taken Ray Rice under his wing, treated him as a brother and not just a teammate.  Lewis was the unquestionable leader of those teams on the field and was often the vocal leader off the field.

Lewis, who now has a statue bearing his likeness outside of the stadium, had some stern words for Rice.

Monday night on the set of ESPN‘s Monday Night Countdown, live from Detroit, before the Giants-Lions face-off.

“I’m disappointed. This is personal for me,” Lewis explained.

“So I’m torn because this is a young man I really took up under my wing and tried to mentor to make sure he had a successful career and stayed away from things like this. Seeing this video, let me be very clear with going through this personally, a man should never, ever put his hands on a woman. Bottom line. We can speculate about a lot of things but what we need to make sure is very clear is what we saw on this video is him putting his hands on a woman and that’s where it’s personal for me.”

Ray Lewis explained that he witnessed his mother suffer domestic violence growing up and the new footage struck a personal cord with him.

“That was one of the greatest things that drove me in my life, which was to make sure a man never touched my mom again. I witnessed that and there were times I went through beatings with her,” Lewis said.

“To go through that and know what that feels like, that a woman is lesser than you and can’t fight back. If that’s my sister or daughter, then we have another issue. So for me, it stings. It stings because he’s a friend and I’ve always tried to take this young man and give him something different. Teach him something different and educate him while he was going on in this process.”

Now, Ray Lewis is known for his passion, but host Suzy Kolber tried to question and compare the treatment of Rice getting cut for domestic abuse and the treatment Ray Lewis received during his 2000 murder trial, in which was charged with two counts of murder and he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

“There is no comparison. This is nothing about me, personally, me speaking with the owner of the Ravens today, Steve Biscotti, just moments ago,” Lewis said. “And just listening to the reason why Ray Rice will never play for the Ravens again, he put his daughter — he put anybody that’s connected to him that’s a female — he put them in that position. When you do that you have to take a step back.”

Lewis said that he has texted Ray Rice and plans on visiting him when he returns to Baltimore.  Lewis spoke sternly about his brother, but he will still be there for his brother.

“Sometimes friends tell you what you want to hear, and best friends tell you what you need to hear,” Lewis said on ESPN. “I told him I will be there to talk to him. I really went to sit down, and I want to know what is going on in his heart and I want to know what his mindset is and what is next for Ray Rice. I am not talking about football. I am talking about the man. Where do you go from here as a man? Where is your focus right now?”

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Ray Lewis: “There is no comparison between me and Ray Rice”

In 2000, when Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with murder and later agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice and testify against his co-defendants, the Ravens stood by him. Today, the Ravens decided to stop standing by running back Ray Rice. In the opinion of Lewis, that’s because his own case is a lot different from Rice’s.

Lewis, now an ESPN analyst, addressed the situation on the air today.

“There’s no comparison,” Lewis said. “There is no comparison between me and Ray Rice. It’s night and day.”

Lewis said he talked to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti today, and that Bisciotti said he hadn’t seen the video of Rice punching his wife until TMZ posted it this morning. Lewis said Bisciotti’s visceral reaction to that video explains why Bisciotti decided to terminate Rice’s contract.

Lewis, who revealed on the air that as a child he witnessed a man physically abuse his mother, also said he was personally upset by seeing Rice punch his wife. Lewis said he has tried to be a mentor to Rice.

“I’m disappointed. This is personal for me so I’m torn because this is a guy, a young man, that I really took under my wing and tried to mentor,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he considers Rice a friend and cares about him. But Lewis does not want to be compared to Rice.

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Ray Lewis Gives Team Inspiring Speech Ahead Of Opener

Ray Lewis won’t be in the huddle pumping up his former teammates (as much as he might like to) Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.

But he did give a speech to the Ravens after Friday’s practice, two days away from kicking off their 2014 season.

It wasn’t one of Lewis’ well-known “Dogs in the house!” speeches, as Lewis has gotten a little more introspective since retirement.

“It was very profound,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “It was about team, about what you sacrifice to accomplish things and what happens when you look back at those things and what it means to you.”

It was Lewis’ first time back at the Under Armour Performance Center since the Ravens’ ring ceremony following the Super Bowl XLVII victory in June 2013.
Lewis was in town for his statue unveiling Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium. He passed on the theme of his speech at the statue dedication to the Ravens players.

“He talked about how he’s realized now that he’s gone how much it was about the team,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “He gave credit to everyone but himself at his statue unveiling because he realizes now more than ever how many people helped him get to that point and how he missed being with his teammates.”

For many of the Ravens players, it was their first time hearing one of Lewis’ inspiring speeches in person. They had been around Lewis earlier this summer when he dropped in on the team’s open practice in Annapolis.

Lewis walked off the field chatting with undrafted rookie inside linebacker Zachary Orr, who was one of the biggest surprises to make the 53-man roster. Orr had a different takeaway.

“Oh man, that was a great experience – something I’ll never forget. That was my favorite player growing up,” Orr said. “He told us not to just come in here and be done. You have to go back, study film, know your opponent in and out. Being good is just showing up every day. Being great is putting the extra work in.”

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Statue salutes Lewis' pregame dance

BALTIMORE -- Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis finished the ceremony where they unveiled his statue by pointing to the 9-foot sculpture that immortalizes his celebratory pregame dance.

"Now I'm never leaving," Lewis said with a smile.

The statue shows Lewis in his signature pose with his back arched, right foot lifted and mouth agape. It even has Lewis clutching a piece of grass, which he always picked up before going into his dance.

"This is forever my city," said Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl player who led the Ravens to two Super Bowl titles. "I will forever be a part of this city. Anybody who wants to create history in life, influence enough people to the way where they remember your presence."

Lewis spoke for 31 minutes, thanking many former teammates like Michael McCrary and Duane Starks, who both attended the event.

The statue sits in front of the north end of M&T Bank Stadium a few feet from the statue of Johnny Unitas.

"We didn't take this lightly, I promise you, for John to share this plaza with the greatest defensive player of all time," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said.

A couple of thousand people attended the event, which was announced late because team officials knew there was limited space. Many wore Lewis' No. 52 jersey and repeatedly chanted, "We love Ray!"

After the fans screamed for Lewis to perform his dance once more, Lewis obliged by doing so on the stage.

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Ray Lewis Statue To Be Unveiled Thursday

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Excitement is building. Thursday morning, a new statue will unveiled featuring a Baltimore legend. The Ray Lewis statue will stand outside M&T Bank Stadium and what it looks like is still a mystery.

Meghan McCorkell has more from the man who created it.

We’ve known for months that a Ray Lewis statue was coming but we still don’t know what it will look like—so Wednesday night, we pressed the artist for some answers.

For 17 years, Ray Lewis danced his way into the hearts of Ravens fans and now he’ll join the ranks of Babe Ruth, Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas as he is honored with his own statue.

“For 17 years, I gave everything I had. I left it all on the field,” Lewis said.

The statue—delivered to M&T Bank Wednesday morning—was created by local sculptor Frederick Kail, who also made the Unitas statue.

“That’s a humbling experience to have the opportunity to do both of them,” Kail said.

But what it shows is still shrouded in mystery. We pressed Kail for clues.

“I think it reflects what Ray gave to Baltimore and I think it reflects what Baltimore meant to him, as well,” he said.

At the Sport Shop at the Inner Harbor, everything Ray Lewis is still flying off the shelves, from jerseys to balls to pictures—all of it in high demand.

“When you’re talking about sports and you’re talking about iconic figures in the city of Baltimore, you’re talking about Ray Lewis,” said Xavier Dandridge, The Sport Shop.

Fans are thrilled to see what it looks like in a larger scale.

“Very excited to see that. Ray has been a big part of this city and this community for a long time,” one said.

Now the two-time Super Bowl champion will forever stand outside the stadium walls.

Ray Lewis will be there at 11 a.m. Thursday for the official unveiling of the new statue.

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Tom Brady: Revis like Ed Reed & Ray Lewis

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a guest on Boston sports-radio station WEEI on Monday morning, as part of his weekly in-season interview, and he shared insight on what it’s like to practice against cornerback Darrelle Revis.

In doing so, Brady drew a connection to former Baltimore Ravens Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.

"It’s been so fun to go against him because he challenges every throw, he challenges every play, he’s really just so smart and so instinctive," Brady said.

"I played against Ed Reed for a long time and just a little bit of an example, Ed Reed he'd play the deep middle of the field but sometimes he’d make tackles 3 yards from the line of scrimmage when his responsibility was 40 yards down the field. You’d say, 'God, how did he know that the team was running a shallow cross?' He just knew. He saw something and that freedom of his deep-field responsibility allowed him to play with confidence that the ball was going to be [in] a certain spot.

"That’s a lot how 'Reeve' is. You don’t know what he sees, or what he knows, but he always is in the right place and has incredible instincts for a corner when sometimes he runs the routes [before] the receivers. He has great intuition and he obviously sees everything on the field. He sees the quarterback, he sees the split of the receiver, he sees the eyes of the receiver, he sees the technique of the receiver coming off the line of scrimmage, and it’s probably hard for him explain at times what he sees. He just sees everything and he makes great breaks on the ball. That’s what makes a great defensive player -- the anticipation.

"Ray Lewis was another one, where when you would play-action, he wouldn’t even step toward the line of scrimmage. He would just drop back into a zone, and when you’d run the ball, he’s be downhill faster than anybody. He just recognized plays and combinations; it’s a great skill and the instincts for a particular player.

"'Reeve' has definitely got all those traits, and I knew that when I played against him with the Jets. He was so good for them. He eliminates a big part of the field for a particular offense, so you always have to know what you’re doing when you throw the ball in his area, because you know he’s going to be right there closing on the ball."

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Ray Lewis to help coaches In 'Coaching Bad' for Spike TV

Spike TV has brought together NFL legend Ray Lewis and anger management specialist Dr. Christian Conte to tackle the growing problem of coaches with uncontrollable anger issues in a new original series, "Coaching Bad."

The show features nine coaches who have recognized that they need to take action about their combative behavior if they want to continue in the profession that they love. The coaches, from a variety of different sports around the country, will move into a Coaching Center in Los Angeles for intense retraining and reconditioning, designed personally by Dr. Conte and Lewis.

During the program, various sports figures will lend their perspective on the negative effects of caustic coaching, with guest speakers including Chuck Pagano, Bill Romanowski and Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

"Spike TV is thrilled to partner with one of the greatest players in NFL history in a compelling new series that will shine a light on the ever-growing issue of coaches and their anger issues," said Sharon Levy, executive vice president of original series, in a statement. "Who better than Ray to bestow insight and wisdom to these coaches after his storied career as a leader on and off the field during his playing days with the University of Miami and Baltimore Ravens."
Spike TV has ordered eight one-hour installments of "Coaching Bad," to debut in 2015.

Hayley Lozitsky, vice president, development at Spike TV will serve as the executive in charge of production, with John Irwin, Damian Sullivan and Richard Hall as executive producers for Irwin Entertainment.

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Ravens players keep Ray Lewis' Oregon Ridge tradition going

During Ray Lewis' time with the Ravens, one of the staples of the legendary middle linebacker's rigorous training regimen was running the steep hill at Oregon Ridge Park.

For years, Lewis would attack the incline early in the morning, sprinting up the old ski run in Hunt Valley while carrying logs or heavy weights.

Lewis has been retired for more than a year, but the Ravens are keeping the tradition of running the hill at Oregon Ridge.

Along with several other fitness enthusiasts, offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah, A.Q. Shipley and Will Rackley ran the hill early Friday morning. Running back Ray Rice, wide receiver Torrey Smith, cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Anthony Levine and former Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, have also run the hill with Timonium-based trainer Kyle Jakobe of Sweat Performance to build up their leg strength and stamina.

"We've been working hard," said Shipley after a grueling workout at Oregon Ridge that included pushups between runs. "We've been going hard. This was kind of like our last bit of conditioning before camp starts. It was a heck of a day.

"It's tough. It's a heck of a workout. We've taken a likening to it and what Kyle's done. He's gotten us ready to roll."

This has been an important offseason for Shipley, who started nine games last season at left offensive guard after starter Kelechi Osemele suffered a season-ending back injury.

The converted center, acquired last year during an offseason trade from the Indianapolis Colts, has been concentrating on guard play.

"It's different," said Shipley, a 6-foot-1, 307-pound former Penn State player. "I've always kind of had a ball in my hand being a center. This offseason, I haven't really played much center at all. Obviously, I can still play it if they need me to. I've been focusing on both guard spots this offseason, and hopefully I'll have a chance to compete for one of them."

Osemele has made a sound return from back surgery to repair a herniated disk. Pro Bowl lineman Marshal Yanda is entrenched at right guard. So Shipley has been working with the second-team offense.

Last season, Shipley built his confidence while getting acclimated to a new position. He was thrown into the lineup against the Miami Dolphins after Osemele had back spasms.

"Absolutely, I got better each game," Shipley said. "Last year when I went in against Miami, that was really my first time playing a full game at guard. I got better each game. My technique got better and my confidence got a lot better each game."

Running the hill has paid dividends for Shipley, who has lost weight since last season.

"A.Q. is one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," Jaboke said. "He shows up early every day. He's a beast with the way he goes about his work. He's very blue-collar. He's had to earn his stripes every place he's been. It's never easy. He's always had to fight for his playing time.

"He's leaned up. He's lost about 15, 16 pounds since he came back. He's added a lot of strength. He's super excited. He's zoned in."

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Ravens' top plays: Ray Lewis bests George

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. The Mile High Miracle and Jermaine Lewis' kickoff return in the Super Bowl were featured the previous two days. Please vote for your choice as the Ravens’ most memorable play.

Score: Ravens 24, Titans 10
Date: Jan. 7, 2001 Site: Adelphia Coliseum

Of all the big plays in Ray Lewis' decorated career, the most memorable one was when he collided with running back Eddie George in the 2000 playoffs. The result: Lewis returned an interception, off a pass intended for George, for the touchdown that sealed a 24-10 AFC divisional playoff win for the Ravens.

Down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Titans were trying to muster a scoring drive against the Ravens' record-setting defense and looked to George. Lewis was looking at George, too, and he got to the Titans' leading rusher in the left flat almost as soon as the pass did.

George bobbled the pass, and Lewis delivered the turnover by wrestling the ball away from him. Lewis then broke a leg tackle by George and ran 50 yards down the sideline for his first career touchdown. That score put the Ravens ahead 24-10 with under seven minutes left in the game.

"He's their offensive cornerstone and I'm our defensive cornerstone," Lewis said. "It was just a great war. We're great friends off the field, but when we're on the field, it's just two gladiators going after one another."

This was the signature play for a Ravens defense that had set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season. The Ravens went on to beat the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship Game and the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

In both wins, the Ravens' defense didn't allow an offensive touchdown. Lewis, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year that season, would win Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

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Ray Lewis featured on Oprah Winfrey Network show searching for water in Africa

Ray Lewis was always viewed as something of a messianic figure here in Baltimore.

Tonight, we can watch him try to expand his influence to the African nation of Tanzania, where he and a group of NFL stars were filmed for the Oprah Winfrey Network show “Operation Change” working with a group trying to find water for the Maasai tribe.

The episode features Lewis, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Minnesota Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, and former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris working with the aid group WorldServe to try and find a sustainable water source in the area.

Lewis, now with ESPN, isn’t featured much in the trailer, but if the Oprah Winfrey Network is your thing and you need a dose of Ray Lewis in your life, feel free to let me know how the episode turns out.

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Ray Lewis not named to 2014 College Football Hall of Fame class

Retired Ravens star inside linebacker Ray Lewis wasn't named to the 2014 College Hall of Fame class.

A former University of Miami consensus All-American and a runner-up for the Dick Butkus award -- given to the nation's top linebacker -- Lewis had been nominated for induction this year.

Lewis was a two-time All-Big East Conference selection and ranks sixth all-time in school history with 388 career tackles. Retired since after the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Lewis was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXV when the Ravens defeated the New York Giants.

The Hall of Fame class includes former North Carolina cornerback Dre Bly, former USC offensive tackle Tony Boselli, former Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz, former Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan, former Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, former Maine linebacker John Huard, former Stanford halfback Darrin Nelson, former Louisiana Tech offensive tackle Willie Roaf, former UCLA quarterback John Sciarra, former South Carolina wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, former McNeese State cornerback Leonard Smith, the late Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas, former Texas Christian running back LaDainian Tomlinson, former Ole Miss tight end Wesley Walls, former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and former Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore.

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Ray Lewis statue sneak peek

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Michael Irvin to Host UM Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Fishing Tournament June 27-28 in Florida Keys


NFL Hall of Famer and University of Miami football great Michael Irvin will host the 4th Annual Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys/University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame (UMSHoF) Celebrity Dolphin Fishing Tournament June 27-28 in Islamorada, Fla. Event activities will take place at Founders Park at Mile Marker 87 and Coconut Cove Resort and Marina at Mile Marker 85 on the Overseas Highway.

The tournament weekend will begin Friday evening with a kick-off party and captains' meeting followed on Saturday by a full day of fishing, awards dinner and live and silent auctions featuring unique sports memorabilia as well as a variety of gift packages. This is the only fishing event of its kind that matches participants with former Miami Hurricanes sports stars for the competition. Cash prizes and trophies will be presented to anglers in eight categories. A portion of the tournament proceeds will go to Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys, The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and the UMSHoF.

"This tournament reflects the Hall of Fame's mission," said K.C. Jones, president of the UMSHoF, a 2008 hall inductee, two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos and founder of the tournament. "Not only can University of Miami sports fans celebrate the accomplishments of our former student-athletes, they can compete side-by-side with them while raising money for local causes. We are on track for 100 boats to participate in this year's tournament."

Irvin added: "This is really all about the U and our family of Hurricanes fans and former student-athletes. We must embrace the mission of the UMSHoF, which is an organization that recognizes the tremendous efforts of our Hurricanes athletes, coaches and administrators."

Former Hurricanes sports stars scheduled to participate include NFL Hall of Famer and 2012 Tournament Host Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders), NFL Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks (Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders), Clinton Portis (Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins), Brett Romberg (Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons), Gary Dunn (Pittsburgh Steelers), Damione Lewis (St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Houston Texans), and Randal Hill (Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints).
Tournament Information

For information about tournament participation, including boat entry or sponsorship opportunities, visit http://www.canesfish.com or contact Tournament Director Judy Layne at judy(at)canesfish(dot)com. Save $150 on tournament fees by registering online now until June 1. Follow the tournament on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/canesfish.

About the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame (UMSHoF)


Nestled on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami, the UMSHoF is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose sole purpose is to recognize those student athletes, coaches and administrators who have contributed the most to Hurricanes Athletics over the years. The showcase for the UMSHoF and repository of the great sports traditions of the University of Miami is the Tom Kearns Sports Hall of Fame Building, next door to the Hecht Athletic Center on San Amaro Drive. On display are photos of each of the inductees, the National Championship Trophies for University of Miami football and baseball, as well as the Heisman Trophies of Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta. The UMSHoF display includes basketball memorabilia from the Rick Barry years along with items from all of the university sports programs. For information about planning a visit, participating in one of the annual fundraising event or contributing to the UMSHoF, visit http://www.umsportshalloffame.com, send an email to umsportshalloffame(at)aol(dot)com or contact John Routh directly at (305) 284-2775.

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How a joint venture with NFL great Ray Lewis failed

The UpTake: Joe Maluff thought he had a sure-fire hit on his hands when he teamed with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to open a restaurant in Baltimore. But the Birmingham restaurateur soon found out that distance can be a killer when it comes to business.

Joe Maluff always wanted to make a living in the restaurant business.

His father, grandfather and uncles were all in the food service industry, and to this day, Maluff cannot think of a negative thing to say about running a restaurant.

He and his brother David have owned Full Moon BBQ for 17 years, purchasing the original location on 25th Street South in Birmingham from Pat James in 1997.

For more news from the Birmingham Business Journal, check out Bryan Davis' work.

The two brothers will open their 10th restaurant in Dothan, Alabama, this year. The business is growing at a preferred slow and steady pace.

We recently spoke with Maluff about the company's growth, its future and their previous business venture with former NFL star Ray Lewis, among other things.
The following is an excerpt. For the full article, go to the Birmingham Business Journal:

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business?
We learned the hard way. We tried to open up a business out of state, and we didn’t have an owner-operator like we do now...When we tried to go off and do one, we tried to run everything from here and get on a plane at seven in the morning, head out, and come home that evening ...We did a really good business, and then all of the sudden we started having theft and lawsuits. We learned our lesson fast.

What made you want to open an out-of-state Full Moon?
We were with Ray Lewis, the linebacker in Baltimore. We used to go down there and do his birthday party every year. He decided, with some local investors, that he wanted to open up a Ray Lewis' Full Moon Bar-B-Que. It was state of the art. It had his Super Bowl trophies, his jerseys and all of his memorabilia...Our concept was to do something like this, and somehow it wound up being like a Taj Mahal. It had 275 seats, a TV at every station.

Would you do business with Ray Lewis again?
Absolutely. He's phenomenal and still is to this day. He is a fantastic human being.

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Ray Lewis sells Highland Beach home for $4.77 million

Ray Lewis, the former Miami Hurricanes and Baltimore Ravens linebacker who retired as a Super Bowl champion last year, has sold his oceanfront mansion in Highland Beach for $4.77 million, Palm Beach County property records show.

Lewis bought the 6,788-square-foot home at 3573 S. Ocean Blvd. for $5.22 million in 2004. He listed it for sale at nearly $5 million.

The buyers were Dragos Alexe and Susanne Kramer. The home, built in 2001, has seven bedrooms, eight and a half bathrooms, a five-car garage and 58 feet of water frontage, according to the listing. 

Listing agent Emily K. Roberts, of Tauriello & Co. in Delray Beach, declined to answer questions, saying Lewis is “pretty private.”

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Ray Lewis gives coaches insight into his development from high school to the pros

Ray Lewis was overlooked.

Or so that’s how the former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens frames his own development from an undersized rover in high school to an NFL All-Pro.

In high school, a teammate needed to break their jaw for him to start as a sophomore.

At Miami, he was a svelte freshman shorter and lighter than his hulking peers that evolved into a first-round draft pick in 1996.

“I worked my butt off, and if somebody took a break, if you slacked off, I might take your job,” Lewis said. “That’s what competition is.”

In front of high school and college coaches during the LSU Football Coaches Clinic on Friday morning, the ever-intense and wired Lewis, now an analyst with ESPN, made an appeal on the main stage inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“We need to look for hidden gems,” Lewis said.

Lewis, who retired after winning his second Super Bowl in 2013, passed along his usual message: Coaches need to nurture players the respect the essence and roots of the game, which will set the tenor of the locker room based on shared sacrifice but also show empathy and compassion. For Lewis it became the center of his worldview.

From giving up red meat, forsaking swearing, and addressing coaches with the honorific of ‘Sir,’ Lewis’s end goal was to respect the game. And it started with the notion that he had to create his own breaks.

As a freshman at Miami, he left a cafeteria while his teammates ate and ran into a coach on the Hurricanes staff. He was asked why he wasn’t chowing down with his peers.

“I don’t want to eat what they’re serving in there,” Lewis answered. “I’m trying to start.”

“You’re a freshman,” the coach told him.

“I know, but I got visions,” Lewis said.

Finding players with that certainty that starts in their gut and defines their effort is what coaches need to hone in on when they try to build a roster, Lewis said.
“That’s what you as coaches are looking for,” Lewis said. “That’s what’s going to carry your program.”

Lewis laid out seven things coaches can do to foster players with those traits, but he spent over seven minutes parsing on the notion that fear and pain can be the best instructors.

The linebacker, a devout Christian, often talks of events almost being ordained before they happen. And in his final season, a Super Bowl run was envisioned.
Famously, Lewis tore his triceps in an October game at the Dallas Cowboys, underwent surgery and sat out for 11 weeks before rejoining the Ravens for their playoff run that ended in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“The only thing that defeats pains is recognizing it exists in our lives,” he said.

In a setting where coaches sit in highly technical breakout sessions, Lewis’ hour-long speech hewed more toward trying to tilt worldviews and philosophies toward the job.

Boiled down, Lewis said the objective requires balancing short-term demands against the longer-term end game of why coaches get into the profession.

“Wins and losses can dictate our jobs, sometimes they can get us hired and fired,” Lewis said. “But what actually dictates the bottom line and what dictates your legacy?”

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Ravens Will Unveil Ray Lewis Statue Outside M&T Bank Stadium Before 2014 Season

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti tells Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that the team plans to unveil a statue of Ray Lewis outside M&T Bank Stadium before the upcoming season. The statue will be placed in Unitas Plaza and is being done by Fred Kail, who did the Johnny Unitas statue that sits outside the stadium.

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Ray Lewis nominated for College Football Hall of Fame

Retired Ravens star middle linebacker Ray Lewis has been nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

Lewis was a consensus All-American at the University of Miami and was a runner-up for the Butkus award.

The class will be announced in May and then honored by the National Football Foundation will be honored on Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

He was a two-time All-Big East Conference selection who ranks sixth all-time in school history with 388 career tackles.

Lewis retired after the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Lewis was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and was named the Super Bowl XXXV Most Valuable Player.

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Chad Johnson Tells Time He Tried To Fight Ray Lewis

Remember this huge hit Ray Lewis laid on Chad Johnson back in the day?

The collision put the receiver on his back and sent his helmet flying. Lewis was penalized for unnecessary roughness and later received a fine.

Johnson, formerly known as Ochocinco, wasn’t happy about the hit at the time, and in a Throwback Thursday tale, tweeted about confronting the Ravens linebacker after the game.

“I remember waiting for Ray Lewis outside the locker room after a game for knocking my helmet off unnecessarily?” Johnson tweeted. “He went out the side door, Ed Reed had to talk me out of putting these paws on Ray.”

Ravens tackle Michael Ohericon-article-link remembers the incident, replying to Johnson’s tweet and noting that the receiver brought friends.
“lol wasnt solo,” Oher wrote.

Johnson added that wasn’t the only time he confronted Lewis. He “stepped” to Lewis again during pre-game warm-ups at another matchup.

“2nd time we played the Ravens I caught Ray slipping in pre-game, I stepped to him, he started preaching, I was like the Lord can't help you!” Johnson tweeted. “So I square up ready to go from the shoulders and Ray is steadily reciting a scripture and I'm ready to rumble, I'm like let's run it WTF!!! Long story short Marvin Lewis broke it up and saved Ray from getting beat up in pre-game.”

So how much of Johnson’s story should we believe, considering the two have been close buddies over the years and regularly joke around? Does the lanky 6-foot-1, 188-pound receiver really think he could have taken on the fiery linebacker with a 50-pound weight disadvantage?


“Chad Ochocinco is just kidding about wanting to fight Ray Lewis for hitting him hard in a game,” tweeted The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “They're great friends, Lewis was his mentor.”

If Johnson’s claims really are true, he may have misunderstood Reed and Marvin Lewis’ mediating gestures.

“Johnson may not know it, but he’s the one Marvin Lewis was saving,” wrote ProFootballTalk.com’s Michael David Smith.

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Ravens Missed Ray Lewis, Ed Reed

Just last week, Head Coach John Harbaugh saw cornerback Chykie Brown listening to a Ray Lewis speech on his iPhone.

“I’m just trying to get fired up, coach,” Brown said.

A lot of the chatter before the season was about how the Ravens were moving on from two organizational institutions and locker room leaders, Lewis and Ed Reed.

After the season ended, Harbaugh was asked whether it really was an issue not having their leadership.

“I missed them, personally, and I think our guys missed them,” Harbaugh said, before citing the Brown anecdote. "So, Ray Lewis lives.

“You’re always going to miss guys. I think those guys are doing their thing now and doing real well at it, and they’re always a part of us going forward. They’re good friends; we miss them.”

Reed played for the Houston Texans, where he struggled on the field and clashed with coaching staff, and then the New York Jets, where he played well with three interceptions in six games.

Lewis became an analyst on Monday Night Football and other ESPN programming.

The Ravens, meanwhile, found other sources of leadership – both old and new.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata became a stronger voice and leader by example. Fullback Vonta Leach was relied on for leadership on offense, as well as guard Marshal Yanda, wide receiver Torrey Smith and quarterback Joe Flacco.

Safety James Ihedigbo stepped up in the secondary, and defensive end Chris Canty and linebacker Daryl Smith both became highly-respected veterans amongst their teammates.

The Ravens had leadership. They just didn’t wear No. 52 and No. 20.

But Lewis and Reed were still missed around Baltimore.

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LeGarrette Blount says Ray Lewis gave him permission to do his dance

As if it wasn’t bad enough to be on the wrong end of a blowout for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16, they had to watch New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount mock them by doing Ray Lewis‘ famed dance.

But Blount says he didn’t pull the dance out of his hat, stating that Lewis gave him permission to break out the moves:

“Out of respect for him … I talked to him one of the last times I played him, and I had his phone number still from doing a couple of appearances with him, so I asked him a while ago,” Blount said.

Now, I don’t really think it’s outlandish to assume Lewis gave Blount the ‘okay’ to use his dance, but against his old team? Yeah, that’s difficult to believe.

In fairness to Blount, he didn’t say that he asked him to use it against the Ravens, just that he asked if he could use it – a while ago. Pretty sure if the former Ravens linebacker knew Blount was going to bust it out against his former team, let alone with a playoff birth on the line, he’d have objected.

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Ray Lewis CRUSHING Eli Manning in Jersey Sales ... Despite Being Retired

Ray Lewis is still a BEAST in the NFL ... at least when it comes to jersey sales, 'cause despite the fact he's retired, his uni is still selling better than Eli Manning and a bunch of other active studs, TMZ Sports has learned.

According to the NFL Team Shop, Ray's Baltimore Ravens jersey was the 11th best-selling jersey from April 1st to September 30th ... beating out the 2x Super Bowl MVP, who clocked in at number 12.

Ray's #52 is also selling better than Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (18th) and Eagles stud LeSean McCoy (25th).

In fact, Ray's just BAAARELY getting beat out by Saints QB Drew Brees ... who wears the 10th best selling jersey in the league.

So, who's #1?? That honor goes to Colin Kaepernick ... followed by Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Adrien Peterson (who will face the Lewis-less Ravens this Sunday).

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Ray Lewis' offer to Ahmad Brooks reportedly declined

Ray Lewis can put his American Express card away.

On Monday, the former Raven-turned-ESPN talking head expressed his outrage at the penalty called on the 49ers’ Ahmad Brooks for his hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday. Lewis, speaking for linebackers past, present and future, called the penalty an “insult to defenders” and said it was a clean, hard hit. Then Lewis waved his credit card and said he would pay half of Brooks’ inevitable fine from the NFL.

Now that Brooks has indeed been fined $15,750, he said he won’t take Lewis’ money, ESPN reported.

Lewis was insistent, though.

“I will see Ahmad on Monday and I will have a check in hand for half of the fine,” Lewis said, again as reported by ESPN. The 49ers play the Redskins next week on Monday Night Football on the four-letter network.

Lewis isn’t the only former linebacker now paid to opine on ESPN who has expressed his willingness to offset Brooks’ fine. Tedy Bruschi has, too. "Linebackers, we've got each other's back," Bruschi said. "Keep hitting him hard.”

Speaking of hitting hard, in writing this story, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio took a shot at Lewis: “When he was playing football, it was all about Ray Lewis.  Now that he’s not playing, it’s still all about Ray Lewis.”

Ouch. Is that unnecessary roughness?

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Ray Lewis' passion shows up as ESPN analyst

Ray Lewis is still giving fiery speeches. Not in the Ravens locker room, but on ESPN. And Lewis is even using props, like his American Express card.

Lewis weighed in on the controversial penalty that was called on 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks for his hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  Now an analyst for ESPN, Lewis didn’t hold back during a Monday night football panel discussion, saying the call was embarrassing for the NFL, criticizing Brees, and offering to pay half if Brooks was fined.

“This is the most embarrassing call in the National Football League since the tuck rule and Tom Brady,” Lewis said. “I’m serious. I’ve never seen this kind of insult to defenders…When you look at the hit, Ahmad Brooks took the hit and hit him exactly where he was supposed to hit him. Drew Brees’ neck slid down to that man’s arm. You cannot – you cannot – first of all, for that to be a flag is embarrassing. Let me tell you the second embarrassing thing. The second part that’s embarrassing about this is for Drew Brees to say, ‘I got hit so hard I knew it had to be a flag.’ This is the National Football League. I don’t understand what that means. When you get hit that hard from the blind side, it’s supposed to hurt.

“But I’ll tell you this. If they fine this kid, if they go on record and they fine this kid, Ahmad Brooks, I’m going to do something personally. I’m gonna pay half.  Half.”

When ESPN analyst Trent DeIfer said he thought Brooks would be fined, Lewis had more to say, with his American Express card in hand.

“If they fine this kid Trent, I’m gonna pay half this kid’s fine, because of one reason – because of one reason – defenders have to be respected as men before anything else,” Lewis said. “And that man made a clean hit that cost the San Francisco 49ers a complete football game yesterday and could have cost them in the playoffs.”

Clearly, Lewis still has a forum to vent his emotions. But Brooks may want to get that credit card number.

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Ray Lewis thinks NFL isn’t rough enough on passers, calls QB protection ‘embarrassing’

Peyton Manning is hobbled by a sensitive right ankle.

With Jay Cutler, it’s the left ankle.

Aaron Rodgers is out at least until U.S. Thanksgiving because of a broken left collarbone, although reports out of Green Bay say the star quarterback can reach down now to put on his socks in the morning without too much pain.

Former linebacker Ray Lewis isn’t feeling sympathy for any of them.

An injury epidemic has hit NFL quarterbacks this season, pushing the league to determine this week it would investigate expanding rules that protect quarterbacks.

Lewis scoffs at the thought.

The former Baltimore Ravens star, who retired after last season, was asked Friday on ESPN Radio whether there were any more ways to make the game safer for quarterbacks.

“The only thing they can do next is put flags on them,” Lewis replied scornfully.

“That’s not football.”

In his mind, quarterbacks already are pampered to the point of thinking they’re untouchable, as if the game were flag football. Lewis said anytime a quarterback gets knocked down, he looks to the officials to call a penalty.

“Seriously, there is nothing more you can do for the quarterback position,” Lewis said. “It is almost embarrassing how they’re so different from everybody else who plays the game. Everybody puts their pants on one at time. Everybody is a man.  I have always felt  everybody should be treated equally (on the football field).”

Except that some teams are running out of quarterbacks. Seneca Wallace replaced Rodgers as the Green Bay Packers’ starter last week, but he suffered a groin injury so third-stringer Scott Tolzien takes over this week.

The Packers are the fourth team to go to a No. 3 quarterback this season, following the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings.

The Chicago Bears’ Cutler is sidelined for the second time this season, having recovered from a torn groin muscle just in time to sprain his left ankle against the Detroit Lions last week. Josh McCown is back at quarterback for the Bears this week.

Manning has been a limited participant in practice this week with the Denver Broncos but is expected to start Sunday night against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Dean Blandino, the NFL vice-president of officiating, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the league’s competition committee in the off-season would probe whether quarterbacks should get expanded protection from low hits or head hits. “Part of the conversation will be: Should that protection be expanded to all times when the quarterback has the ball in the pocket?”

“Currently the quarterback is as protected now as he’s ever been,” Blandino said, “but I think that’s been the case for eight or nine years.”

Only 20 of the 32 teams have had the same starting quarterback in every game this season. Imagine how much worse that figure could be if Lewis were still playing.

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Ray Lewis suing bank over nearly $4 million in alleged investment losses

Retired Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis is among a group of 16 current and former NFL players who are suing BB&T Bank for nearly $60 million in alleged investment losses.

The Baltimore Sun has obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports. The lawsuit alleges that Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who retired following the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory in February, lost $3.778 million.

Lewis' agent, David Dunn, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to Lewis, former Ravens linebacker Tavares Gooden allegedly lost $515,000 through an unauthorized bank transfer, according to the lawsuit.
Several NFL players are accusing the bank of allowing disgraced financial advisor Jeff Rubin and his former firm, Pro Sports Financial, to open accounts in their names and place tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized investments. The majority of the money went to a failed casino bingo project in Alabama that was deemed illegal under Alabama law in July of 2012.

"While we have not had the opportunity to review the allegations in detail, we understand this case concerns actions taken by BankAtlantic prior to its acquisition by BB&T in 2012," David R. White, BB&T's vice president of corporate communications, told Yahoo. "Because this is pending litigation, we cannot comment further."  

Rubin, whose firm provided financial-related services to professional athletes, has since been banned from the securities industry.

The other NFL players who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the money allegedly lost by each individual includes: former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson ($5.813 million), former St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans offensive guard Jacob Bell $3.339 million), former wide receiver Derrick Gaffney (2.295 million), San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore ($8.745 million), New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes ($1.159 million), linebacker Greg Jones $2.006 million), former Titans and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse ($7.958 million), former Washington Redskins defensive end Kenard Lang ($1.648 million), Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather ($3.645 million), Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss ($4.852 million), former Redskins running back Clinton Portis ($3.136 million), former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard ($5.011 million), former Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor ($2.993 million) and former Cleveland Browns and Patriots defensive tackle Gerard Warren ($3 million).

The lawsuit alleges that BB&T developed a "close business relationship with Pro Sports, Rubin and other Pro Sports employees," including a special division "dedicated to targeting and servicing athletes and others in the sports industry,"

According to the lawsuit, Pro Sports deposited tens of millions of dollars of the plaintiffs' money in BB&T accounts opened and maintained in the plaintiffs' names with "illegitimate accounts that were opened with signature cards containing signatures that were forged by Pro Sports’ employees."

"After the monies were deposited, BB&T allowed numerous unusual, suspicious and extraordinary withdrawals from accounts opened in the name of each plaintiff that were neither within the scope of the service identified in the client services agreement nor authorized by the plaintiff in whose name the account was opened," the lawsuit alleges. "BB&T had actual knowledge that certain transactions on the plaintiffs’ accounts were unauthorized and exceeded the scope of the plaintiffs’ client service agreements with Pro Sports."

Former Ravens cornerback Duane Starks also had a relationship with Rubin’s firm.

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Joe Flacco says Ray Lewis should know better

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said that his former teammate, Ray Lewis, “knows better” than to suggest an off-the-field incident is result of a leadership void within the team.

Responding to comments the former linebacker and current ESPN broadcaster made on Monday, Flacco said: “It is what it is. Ray knows better than that. Things happen. I think we’re usually a pretty good team with stuff like that. If you look around the league, there are probably a lot of leadership problems then. Like I said, Ray knows better.”

Lewis’ comments came before the Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders game Monday night and were a reaction to wide receiver-kick returner Jacoby Jones getting hit in the head by a bottle after left tackle Bryant McKinnie’s 34th birthday party in Washington, D.C.      

“We talk about the transition of losing so many guys, a guy like myself and Ed Reed and other guys that are based off leadership. I've said it earlier: 'Where would the leadership come from?'“ Lewis said. “Because the leadership being strong in the locker room and winning games. Listen, talent sometimes can win you games. But when you talk about what's going on off the field, that's the most important place where leadership steps up.

“When you think about the Baltimore Ravens and the transition that they went through, they're missing leadership right now. When you have an incident like that, the first thing a leader is going to do is find some way to dissolve everything that's going on and actually dissolve it before it comes to that type of head or even gets to that point. When you talk about the Baltimore Ravens they're going to have to refocus and find some quick leaders in that locker room very quickly.”

Flacco, however, downplayed the incident.

“When you get the information of what happened, it is what it is,” Flacco said. “You laugh about it kind of. It’s funny, some of the things that we deal with. I don’t really have too many comments on it because they’d all be taken the wrong way and out of context. It’s not really an issue.”

Asked if it was funny because Lewis, who was just inducted in the Ravens Ring of Honor on Sunday, was the one who said it, Flacco said: “Ray is one of them for a couple of minutes a week now. It is what it is.”

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Why Ray Didn’t Do His Dance Sunday

With a dance as iconic as Lewis’, why didn’t he perform it at the Ring of Honor ceremony?

Lewis was introduced out of the tunnel Sunday, but acknowledged the crowd and gave high fives to his teammates. WNST’s Glenn Clark asked Byrne what conversations led to the decision for Lewis not to dance.

“I don’t think there was as much [conversation] as people might suspect,” he replied. “I spoke to Coach [John] Harbaugh to say, ‘Look, we’ve brought out our Ring of Honor guys in different ways. In pre-game, we’ve brought them out before we bring the team, we’ve brought them out just before we introduce whatever starting group we’re going to do. Or we can not bring him out.’

“John’s immediate reaction was, ‘No I’m OK with having Ray there in the tunnel and stuff. And I said, ‘Well how about we bring him out just before we introduce the defense. He said, “Yeah, I’m good with that. It will be good to see him.’ That’s basically as much conversation that we had about it.”
Was there any conversation with Lewis about his dance?

Byrne said the topic never even came up. He said. “I never suggested it to him. I never asked him if he wanted to do it.”

The Ravens needed to balance the love the city and franchise have for Lewis with the need to be a separate team in 2013.

“My personal opinion is this was not the time for the dance, but if Ray looked at me and said, ‘Hey, the people would really like it’ or ‘I’m willing to do it,’ we probably would have done it,” Byrne said. “It really just didn’t come up.

“I thought the way it happened was tremendous. In fact, when Ray was in the tunnel and we put a camera on him and showed him on our big screen, the stadium literally shook. It’s shaken very few times since the building’s been up. I was on the field and I could feel the vibrations when they first saw him in the tunnel and that’s before he walked out. … That was like, ‘Holy cow!’ That was a very cool moment for all of us.”

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Discussing Details Behind Ray Lewis Statue

The city of Baltimore got to celebrate one last time with the greatest defensive player in Baltimore history Sunday as Ray Lewis was enshrined into the Ring of Honor.

There was no question that Lewis would join other Baltimore greats in the ring, including Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, Peter Boulware, Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore.

But considering Lewis’ 17-year iconic NFL career is on a level all its own, some have wondered whether Lewis will also be recognized in a way that distinguishes him from the other greats.

“Yes, we have [talked about doing more]. It’s not a secret, we’re going to put a statue up of Ray Lewis,” Ravens Senior Vice President of Community and Public Relations Kevin Byrne told WNST yesterday. “I don’t mean to demean [Ravens’ first Hall of Famer] Jonathan Ogden, but you almost have to separate Ray from everything else in our history.”

Byrne noted that the discussions internally at the Under Armour Performance Center are now centered on the details behind Lewis’ future statue.

The Ravens would like to erect it sooner rather than later, and don’t plan on waiting until Lewis is inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years from now. Instead, they want to do it “as quickly as possible.”

And while Byrne didn’t want to make any promises, he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we do it next year.”

Lewis’ statue will go up alongside the bronze 13-foot Johnny Unitas statue at M&T Bank Stadium. Unitas is in a throwing pose, and the question the Ravens are currently asking themselves is what pose Lewis should be in.

“Should the statue be the iconic end of the squirrel dance?” Byrne asked. “Or should he be in a linebacker stance?”

My vote (and of course I don’t have one)? I would love to see a screaming Lewis at the end of his dance chiseled into history for the rest of time.

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NFL U Week 3 Photos

Ray Lewis on the Ravens Sideline.
Redskins S Brandon Meriweather.
Patriots DL Vince Wilfork.
Saints TE Jimmy Graham enter the Superdome through the smoke.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen runs out of the tunnel before Carolina’s game versus the Giants.

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Ray Lewis questions Ravens' leadership issue following Jacoby Jones incident

In the wake of Pro Bowl kick returner Jacoby Jones allegedly being struck in the head by a bottle on a party bus early Monday morning while celebrating the 34th birthday of offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, retired inside linebacker Ray Lewis questioned the Ravens' leadership again.

For the second time this month in his new role as an ESPN analyst, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said the Ravens have a leadership void following his retirement and the offseason departure of Ed Reed to the Houston Texans.

"We talk about the transition of losing so many guys, a guy like myself and Ed Reed and other guys that are based off leadership, I've said it earlier: 'Where would the leadership come from?'" Lewis said on ESPN in Oakland prior to the Denver Broncos' win over the Raiders. "Because the leadership being strong in the locker room and winning games, listen talent sometimes can win you games. But when you talk about what's going on off the field, that's the most important place where leadership steps up.

"When you think about the Baltimore Ravens and the transition that they went through, they're missing leadership right now. When you have an incident like that, the first thing a leader is going to do is find some way to dissolve everything that's going on and actually dissolve it before it comes to that type of head or even gets to that pont. When you talk about the Baltimore Ravens they're going to have to refocus and find some quick leaders in that locker room very quickly."

The Ravens have identified several leaders on their team following the retirements of Lewis and center Matt Birk and Reed leaving via free agency, including outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and quarterback Joe Flacco. Traditionally, developing strong intangibles and leadership develops and grows gradually over the years and doesn't happen immediately.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh addressed the situation with the entire team and privately with Jones and McKinnie. Jones wasn't hurt seriously and was able to take part in his rehabilitation for a sprained right medial collateral ligament.

Harbaugh expressed disappointment about the incident.

“I'm not very impressed personally with the report,” Harbaugh said. “It's not something we want to be known for. I'd like to think it's not something that those guys would want to be known for. It's nothing to be proud of. I'm kind of disappointed in that sense.”

Harbaugh referred to an adage from his father, former college football coach Jack Harbaugh, when speaking to the team Monday.

"What do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as a football player or do you want to be known for that?" Harbaugh said. I don't think it's anything to be proud of. My dad, Jack Harbaugh, is here and that's definitely a motto that was enforced in our household: Nothing good happens after midnight. I did reiterate that with the guys today, yes.”

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Ray Lewis inducted into team's Ring of Honor

For the fans who packed M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday and stayed in their seats at halftime to see Ray Lewis inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor, it would be hard to imagine a more appropriate way to honor the greatest Raven of them all.

Sure, Lewis got an amazing reception from the sellout crowd of 71,168 when he walked onto the field before the game and again during the halftime ceremony that featured an impressive VIP list of NFL Hall of Famers and previous Ring of Honor inductees. Sure, he regaled the crowd with an inspirational acceptance speech. That was all great.

What made it unique, however, was the fact that his replacement at middle linebacker, newcomer Daryl Smith, had just turned the game around by intercepting a pass by Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and sprinting into the end zone to give the Ravens their first lead of the game.

“As I walked out of the tunnel, I said, ‘I should have ran out there and he should have just tossed me the ball,’’ Lewis said during a news conference after the ceremony. “Me and Steve [Bisciotti] were walking down and we were like, ‘We should have came down earlier to give them some motivation,’ but it was so perfect.”

The Ravens were represented by Bisciotti, club president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome. They presented Lewis with an engraved crystal vase and a large oil painting of him in a classic pose by artist Tim Byrne, the son of Ravens vice president Kevin Byrne.

“The love that’s out there in that stadium and the love that this city has for me and the respect the players have for me is overwhelming,’’ Lewis said after the ceremony. “It’s humbling because I only know what the path chose. To see it now ... this is it. This is why you do it. This is why you go through all those hard times.”

Lewis clearly reveled in the shower of affection from the stands and projected it right back to the fans he entered for nearly two decades and -- along with his teammates -- rewarded with two Super Bowl titles.

“It’s good to be back home,'' he said. "That’s one thing I’ve always said about me being here for 17 years is that I got a chance to lay my head in one place, and if you can have that, that’s the foundation of a legacy. So to be back where it all started from is probably one of the greatest gifts I can ever give myself.”
He said that he walked onto the field before the game free of any regret that he was no longer in uniform.

“I never discredit what I gave to the game,’’ Lewis said. “I gave it everything I had. Now it’s my time, it’s my way that I honor God by walking as who the man I am completely happy that the game is done for me. So when I walked out there I walked out there from a totally different perspective, because every other time I walked out there was to do battle. This time I went out there as a man…as a complete man ... and it feels good to know that I ran my race and now I’m here.”

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Ray Lewis: There’s “Something Really Wrong” If Ed Reed Doesn’t Play Vs. Ravens

Ed Reed is still Ed Reed. He may be in a different city, wearing a different uniform, playing for a different team, but he’s still the same guy.

“This team has aspirations to win the championship and that’s what we’re shooting for and it’s a long way from now,” Reed told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen about his hip injury. “For as long as I’ve been in the league, I know that it takes a lot and it puts a lot of strain on the body. You got to be smart about what you’re doing.”

Who knows if Reed will play on Sunday? I don’t even think Reed knows, but his former teammate Ray Lewis thinks he’ll suit up.

“I would be (surprised). I would be, because then that would tell me that his injury hasn’t totally healed yet,” Lewis said during a media interview according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. “Because if he can’t go the third week into the regular season – that’s what they got him there for – if he can’t go, then there’s still something really wrong.”

Reed downplayed Sunday’s game saying that his rehab won’t be changed for any opponent. “It’s about being there for the long haul, being there for the team when it really counts, and that’s playoffs, the Super Bowl, the AFC championship game.”

We talked with Kris Jones of Russell Street Report on our podcast this week, he thinks Reed will play against the Ravens and cited the Baltimore’s lack of interest in bringing him back as motivation for Reed’s 2013 debut. I completely agree.

Still there’s some comfort knowing that Ed is still Ed.

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Ray Lewis humbled by this weekend's induction in Ravens' Ring of Honor

Six of Ray Lewis’ former teammates already have been inducted in the Ravens’ Ring of Honor and he’s watched his contemporaries around the league get recognized in a similar fashion.

But the magnitude of what awaits Lewis on Sunday really didn’t sink in until last week when the former linebacker watched Tedy Bruschi get inducted into New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame.

“I’m just watching from afar [thinking], ‘Wow, I have to get ready to do something like that in front of my city that I’ve been with since I was 18 or 19 years old,’” Lewis said Monday during a national conference call. “It’s one of the most humbling feelings that you ever go through. You think, ‘Wow, I was able to stand on my own, finish my career, go out on top and now return back to my city.’”

More than seven months since he officially retired, Lewis will become the 16th member of the franchise’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Ravens’ game against the Houston Texansicon1 at M&T Bank Stadium.

For Lewis, now an analyst for ESPN, the day will provide an opportunity to reminisce on his career, which started when he was the second of two first-round picks in the franchise’s first draft in 1996, and ended amid a sea of confetti in February when Lewis and the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ersicon1 to capture Super Bowl XLVII. That was Lewis’ second Super Bowl victory.

“The most exciting thing for me is that we were at the beginning of that and to build that brand the way it is now, the way it’s respected now, it’s like the ultimate,” Lewis said. “To come back and see what we did for that city, to see what I was able to helpicon1 do for that city, and to see the fans and know the connection — because I’m always going to be connected to Baltimore — just to come back and feel what that love feels like is just going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my kids’ eyes and just seeing my family and just being around them and just sharing that moment with them, because it’s huge. It’s huge when you sit back and pay attention to it.”

Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFLicon1 Defensive Player of the Year, said that he will talk later this week to Ravens coach John Harbaugh who joked Monday about having his former linebacker give the current team one of those pre-game talks that he delivered for much of the last two decades.
As of now though, Lewis doesn’t have plans to deliver any fiery speech or make any elaborate entrance. He’s just looking forward to the opportunity to say hello to many of his former teammates. That group could include Texans safetyicon1 Ed Reed, the former Raven who hasn’t played yet this season because of a hip injury but Lewis — and many others — expect to see him on the field Sunday.

“If he can’t go, then there’s still something really wrong,” said Lewis who acknowledged that he still talks and texts regularly with Ravens’ players and coaches.

The Ravens’ roster, specifically on defense, has been significantly overhauled since Lewis last manned the middle, but he said that he likes what he’s seen so far.

“I just think they’re adjusting to a lot of new pieces, to what this looks like and what that looks like. ‘How do we go down this path without this, without that?’ And I think they’re doing a pretty good job,” Lewis said. “Sometimes on Sundays, it doesn’t always show, but I think once the chemistry starts to actually click in, I think everything is going to be fine, just like I’ve been telling people on ESPN. I’m like listen: ‘[Stop] the panic, everything is good.’ There are just a lot of adjustments going on and then the injury bug hit us. There are a lot of things we’re going through right now, and they understand it’s all a part of the process. I like where we are, but I like the potential of where we can go as well.”

Saying that he has enjoyed his transition to an analyst role, the 38-year-old joked that on Sundays, he occupies the “loudest hotel room” because he still gets so “amped” for Ravens’ games. However, that doesn’t mean that he regrets walking away from the NFL after 17 seasons.

“I went at the game so hard. I enjoyed every moment of it, but … my family had to sacrifice so much,” Lewis said. “Honestly, since I’ve been done with the game, everything I’ve been doing — if it’s not with ESPN — it’s been with my kids. The time with them, just being there and them knowing that their dad is home, here to [relax] and doesn’t have to always be away — it’s the ultimate now. I appreciated the game, I love the game so much, but I can’t tell you that I have withdrawals [thinking], ‘I really miss the game.’ I talk to the [Ravens players] regularly; I text them regularly — just general conversation every day. So, it’s not like I’m disconnected to them. It’s been a great adjustment, to sum it up in all words.”

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Ray Lewis: Ravens Connection Is 'Forever'

When speaking about the Ravens, retired Ray Lewis can’t help himself from using the terms “us” and “we.”

Lewis said he doesn’t have any withdrawal from playing in the NFL. If he’s not immersed in his family, he’s working as an analyst for ESPN.

But Lewis is still very much invested in his former team.

“That connection is forever,” Lewis said Tuesday during a national conference call before being inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor Sunday afternoon.
Lewis said he still sends text messages to a bunch of coaches and players, such as linebacker Terrell Suggsicon-article-link. They’re messages like, “I miss you,” or “How are you doing?” or “Just checking on you.” Lewis said there are general conversations every day.

“That’s one thing that I think is kind of different in the Ravens organization,” he said. “We’ve always had a brotherhood type of essence in there. When the game is done, you’re still like brothers.”

Lewis said he still goes “crazy” yelling in his hotel room when watching Ravens games.

The competiveness and intensity don’t fade easily, and many retired players talk about the itch of getting back on the field.

For example, center Matt Birk, who hung it up this offseason after 15 years, tweeted the night before the Ravens’ season opener that he wished he was in Denver. Then he posted a picture on Instagram of him watching the game while wearing his Super Bowl jersey and helmet with the message, “Just watching the game. Ready if needed.”

That’s not Lewis.

He said it’s been a “great adjustment” because he’s still able to text and talk to his former team, and is still around the game with ESPN, but he doesn’t have to live and breathe it every day.

Lewis still hasn’t even taken the time to go watch the TV copy of his famous “last ride.”

“I went at the game so hard. I enjoyed every moment of it, but there was a part of me … my family had to sacrifice so much,” Lewis said.

“Honestly, since I’ve been done with the game, everything I’ve been doing – if it’s not with ESPN – it’s been with my kids. The time with them, just being there and them knowing that their dad is home, here to [relax] and doesn’t have to always be away. It’s the ultimate now. I appreciated the game, I love the game so much, but I can’t tell you that I have withdrawals [thinking] ‘I really miss the game.’”

Lewis has kept up with the Ravens’ defensive changes and progress. It’s part of his job now too, and he’s been asked for his opinion on ESPN. He likes what he sees in the post-Lewis defensive era.

“They’re adjusting to a lot of new pieces,” Lewis said. “I think they’re doing a pretty good job. Sometimes on Sunday it doesn’t always show. But once the chemistry starts to kick in there, I think everything will be fine.”

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Ray Lewis: Steelers are a different team

PITTSBURGH -- Ray Lewis was long one of the faces of the rivalry that has churned out one classic slugfest after another.

And the former Ravens linebacker turned ESPN NFL analyst doesn’t recognize the team he loved to hate but also grew to respect because of its physicality.

Lewis said on ESPN’s "Mike & Mike" show Friday morning that the Steelers have gotten away from what has traditionally defined them: hard-nosed football.

“They are a totally different team,” Lewis said.

The offensive side of the ball, Lewis said, is where there has been pronounced change. Lewis said the Steelers have gotten away from drafting a certain type of player, and that they have targeted “smaller, quicker” wide receivers in recent years.

That is another way of saying the Steelers don’t have a tone-setter like Hines Ward, who played wide receiver with the mentality of a linebacker.

The Steelers’ inability to run the ball --- they have rushed for less than 100 yards in seven consecutive games -- is one reason the offense has been criticized from all sides.

Lewis said such struggles reflect a bigger problem in that the Steelers have gotten away from who they are -- and that things could get worse in Pittsburgh before they get better.

Steelers fans won’t like such an appraisal coming from the greatest player in Ravens history. But will they have an issue with the messenger or the message?

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Ray Lewis makes a winning debut on ESPN's 'Sunday NFL Countdown'

I am going to be honest, I did not think Ray Lewis was going to be nearly as good on TV as he was on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown."

Frankly, some of the stuff Lewis said as a player sometimes sounded, well, a little off the wall. Like his comments last week about the power outage in the Super Bowl possibly being intentional.

And I wondered how his incredible visceral intensity as a player would translate to the screen in a medium that favors cool.

But after three hours of watching Lewis and his new TV teammates, I am here to tell you he had an outstanding debut. One week in, he is already better than two-thirds of the ex-NFL-players drawing paychecks as TV analysts.

ESPN has itself a winner -- a big-time winner -- in Lewis. And he's going to be one of the best in the business before long.

You had to admire the physical poise with which Lewis made his onstage entrance Sunday. He had the grace and sense of humor to trust the producers that he wouldn't look silly giving viewers a little of "The Squirrel" dance that he used to make his entrance with at M&T Bank Stadium. He gave just enough to make fans remember the joy of seeing him take the field as a player while remaining in control of his body image as he took the stage for the start of his career as a TV analyst.

Overall, Lewis' greatest contribution to ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" was the genuine sense of energy, enthusiasm and even joy that he brought to the conversation.

Last year, I thought the show felt flat and, frankly, kind of old. But not today. It was jacked up and juiced from beginning to end with energy, information and insights.

Lewis added to those insights with his keen understanding of the game.

For example, in talking about the pounding that the Ravens took Thursday night from the Denver Broncos, he said, "Baltimore will be fine. They're that type of team, alright. Our pedigree has always been that.

"One stumble in the road ain't never stopped nothing ... In the first half the other night, they played checkers. You see? The second half, you was supposed to play chess."

At first I thought, "OK, there's the inscrutable Ray Lewis talking checkers and chess. What the hell does he mean by that, and how many hundreds of thousands of viewers did he just leave scratching their heads?"

But as Lewis went on to explain how Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reads defenses, and how he would move Ravens players out of position to try and confuse Manning with disguised alignments, I thought, "That's exactly what was going on in the second half: Manning started playing chess with the Ravens, and Baltimore had no one to play against him."

That's an astonishing insight. I think someone might have coached Lewis and told him he has to translates those kinds of insights into language that even the least football savvy viewer can understand.

I say that because of Lewis adding the phrase, "You see?" It's like saying, "Do you know what I mean?" Or, "Am I making myself clear?"

And the trick is to make yourself understood to the widest possible audience without losing your unique way of speaking.  That's a challenge. But I think Lewis is well on his way to pulling it off.

Understand, though, that the triumph of Lewis' debut was not all his doing. Time and again, the producers put him in a position to succeed, and his TV teammates were skilled and gracious helping him climb aboard the Sunday morning TV train.

Mike Ditka literally did extend a helping hand.

After Lewis did a bit of his signature dance and walked across the stage to join Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson, Tom Jackson, Chris Berman and Ditka, there was a moment of tension if not awkwardness even though they all gave Lewis a handshake and manly backslap/hug.

Berman, the veteran host, asked Lewis how it felt not to be in uniform on the opening Sunday of the NFL season, and Lewis said "Weird."

"But a good weird," he quickly added.

Maybe it is because he's the former coach who is used to taking charge in such moments, Ditka walked over and grabbed Lewis' wrist and held up the hand with the supersized Ravens Super Bowl ring on it.

Then, Ditka, held his finger with a much smaller Chicago Bears Super Bowl ring alongside it. It was a perfect snapshot of the difference in the rewards players and coaches received in the two different eras of Ditka and Lewis.

Or, maybe, it was just a knock on cheap Bears ownership. But whatever it was, it broke the tension on the set, and everybody relaxed.

Jackson, a former linebacker and the most veteran of the player-analysts on the set, was most gracious. After the remarks Lewis made about checkers and chess, he tried to make sure everyone got what Lewis was saying as he reminded viewers that "no one ever scored 49 points" against the Ravens when Lewis was at linebacker.

Berman, too, was reaching out to Lewis constantly during the three hours, prefacing questions with statements like, "Ray, you know this better than I do, so let me ask you about...."

Some of Lewis' best moments Sunday came in a discussion with Carter and Johnson about former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and the issues of character, criminality and the NFL.

Aaron Wilson, Baltimore Sun Ravens beat writer, talks about that discussion here.

In the end, maybe the highest compliment I can pay Lewis is that he really did seem to make everyone around him on the ESPN set better -- just as he did on the field with the Ravens.

Again, it was definitely a two-way street with the producers and teammates constantly reaching out to him.

But what I saw today was someone successfully navigate a major rite of passage from one profession to another.

And I now have a new place to be on Sunday mornings for my first NFL gameday TV fix.

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Ray Lewis declined invitation to attend last night's game

As the Ravens prepare for their first ever regular-season game without linebacker Ray Lewis on the team, one teammate wasn’t quite ready to proceed without Lewis around.

Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reports that Ravens running back Ray Rice invited Lewis to attend the game and join the team on the sidelines, but that Lewis declined.

Per Paolantonio, Lewis passed because of his post-football focus on his family.

Lewis will still be making an appearance, to the likely chagrin of Broncos fans.  Earlier this week, the NFL announced that 32 former NFL players — one per team — will appear in a video counting down to kickoff.

The video, we’re told, consists of each player counting off one of the 32 seconds before kickoff.  For the Ravens, the player is Ray Lewis.  For the Broncos, it’s Shannon Sharpe.

Doing the honors with the “one” to end the countdown is, we’re told, not Shannon Sharpe but Ray Lewis.

And they won’t be booing, they’ll be chanting LEWWWWWWWWis.

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PHOTO: Ray Lewis Poses With New ESPN NFL Countdown Crew


It’s going to be weird without Ray Lewis — even more weird with him breaking things down on ESPN. Garrett Downing of the Baltimore Ravens official website tweeted the photo above of Lewis posing front and center with Keyshawn Johnson, Tom Jackson, Chris Berman Mike Ditka and Cris Carter.

Sweet shoes, Ditka.

How will Lewis fare on television? Hopefully Joe Flacco‘s recent comments aren’t any indication of Lewis’ fate. Richard Deitsch of MMQB.SI.com discusses the new gig.

Lewis was the most notable sports broadcasting hire of the offseason and he’ll travel to the Monday Night Football site each week to serve as an analyst for Monday Night Countdown. He’ll also work eight Sundays at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn., appearing on Sunday NFL Countdown. The former Ravens linebacker debuts the morning of Sunday, Sept. 8, when he joins the cast of Countdown. The following day Lewis will be in Landover, Md., for his Monday Night Countdown spot, leading into the Eagles-Redskins game at FedEx Field. “I honestly think the sky is the limit for me,” Lewis told The MMQB in July. “A lot of people have only been introduced to my football mentality—and it is hard to get people to understand the football mentality unless you’ve lived it. I think I am totally different when I’m not thinking about battle, and I’m going to try to be the best at this. When people learn my personality and actually get into my head, they are going to be surprised by the way I think on an everyday and every-second basis.”

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Ray Lewis: Super Bowl XLVII blackout was no accident

Ray Lewis will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, and he almost certainly will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It turns out that Lewis also is a noted conspiracy theorist.

During an interview for NFL Films' "America's Game," which aired Monday night on NFL Network, Lewis let on that he didn't think the infamous power outage during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory in New Orleans was an accident.

"I'm not gonna accuse nobody of nothing -- because I don't know facts," Lewis said, according to USA Today's Nate Davis. "But you're a zillion-dollar company, and your lights go out? No. (Laughs) No way.

"Now listen, if you grew up like I grew up -- and you grew up in a household like I grew up -- then sometimes your lights might go out, because times get hard. I understand that. But you cannot tell me somebody wasn't sitting there and when they say, 'The Ravens (are) about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.' ... That's a huge shift in any game, in all seriousness. And as you see how huge it was because it let them right back in the game."

The San Francisco 49ers nearly erased a 28-6 deficit after the power outage at the Superdome, but they came up just short on the final drive.

It's easy for Lewis to prod at the power outage while he wears his second championship ring, but there is no question that the more than 30-minute delay -- ultimately traced to a faulty electrical delay device -- derailed the Ravens' momentum.

In a show of humor (we assume), 49ers CEO Jed York responded to Lewis' claims via Twitter:

"There is no conspiracy," York wrote. "I pulled the plug."

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Joe Flacco admits Ray Lewis’ speeches didn’t make sense

In an excellent profile of Joe Flacco from ESPN The Magazine’s NFL preview, the Super Bowl MVP admits to Kevin Van Valkenburg that those passionate pregame speeches by Ray Lewis were mostly unintelligible.

“I love Ray, and I love how he always spoke from the heart, but if you listened to those speeches, a lot of them didn’t even make sense. He meant everything he was saying, but I didn’t know what he was talking about 90 percent of the time.”

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PHOTOS: Ray Lewis' Owings Mills home for sale

Retired Raven, current ESPN analyst and future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis has placed his Owings Mills home on the market for $1.1 million.

Writes listing agent Nicole Nichols: "There are at least #52 reasons to purchase this stunning contemporary home. Graciously situated on over 2 acres. This home boasts lavish appointments of marble & granite, gourmet kitchen, grand master suites, olympic sized pool, sauna, steam shower,recessed lighting,2 fireplaces, finished ll complete with ravens blvd & entertainment & security systems. Your chance to own where the "1st ride" began!"

If you happen to have a spare $1.1 million lying around, check out detailed listings at estately.com and trulia.com.


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Ray Lewis' No. 52 jersey still raking cash for retailers, NFL

Retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is about to start an NFL season in the broadcast studio for the first time, but his No. 52 jersey is still a big-time player in retail.

Lewis ranks No. 8 on the NFL's list of players with the hottest-selling jerseys, according to CNBC. His jersey is still outselling gear worn by current stars such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Lewis, who in September will be inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor, has slipped a bit since announcing his retirement. His jersey ranked third in the NFL for sales during the 2012 season.

Lewis is focused on his new role as a studio analyst for ESPN. Although he's only months removed from being a player, Lewis told Sports Illustrated he plans to establish himself as a top broadcaster.

"A lot of people have only been introduced to my football mentality — and it is hard to get people to understand the football mentality unless you've lived it," Lewis told the magazine. "I think I am totally different when I'm not thinking about the battle, and I'm going to try to be the best at this. When people learn my personality and actually get into my head, they are going to be surprised by the way I think on an everyday and every-second basis."

It remains to be seen what football viewers will think once they get into Lewis' head. But a lot of them are still getting into his jersey.

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Ray Lewis says he will choose words carefully if ever asked about Hernandez case

Ray Lewis said he will choose his words carefully if he is ever asked to comment as an ESPN analyst on Aaron Hernandez's murder case.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, Lewis was asked if he should be "a part of any studio conversation" about Hernandez and said: "It would only be to give a brief explanation on what you know. Because if you are talking about getting into the case—what happened, how it happened—that's the judge's job, that's the police's job. Having gone through the things I have been through, what I learned from that is everybody has something they want to say, and 80 percent of them are illiterate. You have to be careful with it. You can't speak about something you do not know. Give your opinion, and keep it moving from there."

Read the entire story on MMBQ.SI.com here.

Lewis and two acquaintances were charged in a double murder in 2000 in Atlanta. The murder charge against Lewis was dropped and he pleaded to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge after he agreed to testify against his two co-defendants, who eventually were acquitted.

Lewis told Deitsch when it comes to any controversy, he will be cautious.

"What you are comfortable with is what you know," Lewis said. "If you don't know something, don't speak about it. Bad rumors and bad messages get out when people identify with something they have no clue about. You can only speak from true experience. If a kid is not doing the right freaking things off the field, that is very simple: He needs to figure it out. He needs to get around the right crowd. He needs to have more balance. Those things are very simple, I think, to be comfortable talking about."

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Ravens Putting Ray Lewis In Ring Of Honor

The Ravens won’t wait long to honor perhaps their greatest player of all time.

The team will immortalize retired linebacker Ray Lewis in a Ring of Honor ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 22, during a Week 3 game against the Houston Texans.

Lewis will be honored on the same day the Ravens take on his departed defensive partner of destruction, safety Ed Reed. Reed signed with the Texans this offseason.

Shortly after the season ended, Owner Steve Bisciotti said the Ravens will erect a statue of Lewis outside the stadium. But it will not be ready by the time Lewis goes into the Ring of Honor.

Lewis will join five other Ravens players, Owner Art Modell and eight Baltimore Colts are among those who receive the franchise’s most sacred individual honor. The other Ravens players inducted are running back Jamal Lewis (2012), kicker Matt Stover (2011), tackle Jonathan Ogden (2008), outside linebacker Peter Boulware (2006) and defensive end Michael McCrary (2004).

Players enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor exemplify a rare combination of talent and personal characteristics that the organization strives to achieve and maintain, including character, gratitude, vision, passion, competitive spirit, humility, faith and courage.

Lewis embodied all of those traits over his 17-year career, ending with a second Super Bowl victory.

It’s just the first of what will surely be many career honors that Lewis will receive, including enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Ray Lewis challenges men to be active in families, communities


For former Super Bowl MVP and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, it was more than his jersey number.

Those two simple digits gained importance at age 10 when he used a deck of cards as part of a self-disciplining exercise during a troubled childhood living in the garage of his mother and stepfather’s home in Florida.

“I promised myself that I wouldn’t run from pain; I’d actually chase pain,” Lewis recalled Saturday as keynote speaker for the No More Excuses men’s conference at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church.

“I needed to feel what pain felt like, but I needed to feel me inflict my own pain,” he said.

The significance of those 52 cards?

“I flipped over six, I did six pushups. I flipped over 10, I did 10,” Lewis said. “And I went through it, and when I got through, I shuffled again and started doing my sit-ups.”

The routine gave him courage against his stepfather, whom he called the “most abusive man” he had ever lived with.

No excuses
Saturday’s conference was aimed at curbing male absenteeism and encouraging men to lead more God-centered lives. Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship senior pastor Tony Evans and gospel music star Kirk Franklin were also featured at the event, which drew men of all ages.

Lewis said there are no excuses for today’s men to be absent from their families and communities. Certainly in his own life, he said, there was no valid reason for his father to have left him as a newborn with a 15-year-old mother stranded in the hospital. The bills she was left with were crushing, he said.

“I started to learn the story, and it baffled me,” said Lewis, who was born Ray Jenkins. “The world is too crazy to leave a man by himself.”

A man whom his mother later began dating took care of the hospital bills. That man was named Ray Lewis, and as a youth, Lewis took the man’s name.

Lewis said Saturday that having an involved father is critical.

“I don’t care how good a mom is, how awesome she is, how spiritual she is. She can never teach a man to be a man,” he said.

Lewis urged audience members to regularly look within themselves and assess their own character.

“If you don’t try nothing else in life, go and look in the mirror and do an identity check every night before you go to bed,” he said.
Strong character, he said, should include a relationship with God, “old-school teaching” of kids and being present as men in the community again.

Timely issue
Julius Craig, 24, attends Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and said he came to the conference because it addressed timely issues.

“The idea of this conference, it’s impactful, and I think our community needs it. The idea of a real man is absent,” he said.

Evans said that bringing in Lewis and Franklin made an important conference even more attractive.

“Our community, like so many other communities in this country, is facing the crisis of man absenteeism,” he said. “They’re missing in action, from their families, from their children, often from their mates, from the influence of the schools and community.”

“We need to call them together to take responsibility,” he said.

Lewis was just as frank.

“We’re here because we’re tired of excuses,” he said. “We don’t have to be police officers, we just have to be men.”

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Ray Lewis passes on Ravens cap, goodwill to president of Tanzania

Although retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was unable to make the climb of Mount Kilimanjaro because of a foot injury and fever, he did his part on the ground.

During his visit to Africa, Lewis conducted an impromptu meeting with the President of Tanzania. He gave Jikaya Kilwete a Ravens cap, according to the charity organizations, WorldServe International and TackleKili.

Lewis spent over an hour with President Kilwete and received an invitation to return in the future for service.

Lewis is in East Africa as part of a philanthropic clean-water project along with former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris and Doug Pitt, the brother of actor Brad Pitt and a good-will ambassador to Tanzania. Without Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the group completed the climb to the 19,340-foot summitt, the highest in Africa.

Lewis and the group provided hearing aids in a nearby village. He also visited an orphanage where World Serve International installed a deep water well operated by solar power.

"Water is life," Doug Pitt said in a statement. "More than 4,500 children die every day for want of clean water. We start with water made possible through donations to WorldServe International; from there, everything follows."

Lewis spent time with the children at the orphanage, where he exchanged greetings, shared pictures and requested a list of their needs, according to WorldServe.

Prior to leaving, Lewis added a handprint in paint on the main wall of a classroom.

After realizing he wouldn't be able to make the climb because of his condition, Lewis commented on a video about his support of the people of Africa.

"The greatest thing we have in life is called opportunity," Lewis said. "It's what you do with opportunity that will actually leave a lasting legacy. This team we put together to go impact lives after lives and lives and to touch people that may never know our names, but will remember our legacy because of what we did to bring clean water to the motherland back to unfortunate people to give them a second opporutnity to say, 'You know what, somebody thought about us even when we didn't have an opporutnity to think about ourselves.'

"They never think about themselves. They only think about the next day. This group has thought about other people. They put all their pains aside. We came together to make the world a better place. Lets bless people and get to the top of that mountain. Nothing can stop us. All things are possible."
Lewis, 38, who retired after winning his second Super Bowl with the Ravens, now works for ESPN as a football analyst. He issued a statement last month about his involvement in the climb.

“In one month, I will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money and awareness for clean water projects in East Africa," Lewis wrote. "I am so FIRED UP for this adventure, but until then, I need your help to bring clean water wells to thousands of children and families. Show your support by following my TackleKili journey, spreading the word, and donating to TackleKili.”

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Ray Lewis works on new Under Armour commercial

Because investors want to see growth, much of the talk surrounding Under Armour in the first half of the year focused on areas like women's gear and non-cleat footwear. The company's share of those arenas is still minuscule, its marketing efforts still in nascent stages.

But Under Armour knows not to stray too far from the sport -- and the feel -- that helped it grow into a $2 billion a year enterprise.

It also knew whose influence it wanted to infuse any new football campaign with: former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. He served as executive producer on a new spot called "Ready for August."

Under Armour is launching its second "brand holiday" for its "I WILL" campaign this week by releasing a stirring football video showing high school players streaming toward a practice field under the Baltimore skyline (it's a practice field once used by Dunbar, before Under Armour built the school a new facility.) The kids -- players from Dunbar, St. Francis and Gilman -- wear their "I WILL" gear and determined looks on their faces as music beats in the background.

The video ends with a linebacker leveling a running back. Just as you'd expect from Lewis.

According to a press release, Lewis helped script the concept for the commercial, spent time on set and was involved with editing.

"Under Armour was a part of my career on the field," he said, "and even though my playing days are over, having the opportunity to reach young athletes with empowering and positive messages is something I look forward to in the next chapter in my life."

Lewis also explained his philosophy for the ad: "You show the pure football scenes, the look on their faces, and that will connect immediately with anyone who has ever played the game."

Under Armour's last major preseason football campaign was the Click Clack blitz in 2006.

The new ad will debut during the Major League Baseball All-Star game's Home Run Derby next week, but you can get a look above. Be warned: you'll likely try to tackle a co-worker after seeing this.

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Ray Lewis unable to climb Kilimanjaro

Ray Lewis was unable to climb Mount Kilimanjaro because of a foot injury.

Also, Lewis developed a fever the night before the start of Thursday's climb of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Lewis, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and current ESPN analyst, was in Tanzania to raise money and awareness about the need for clean water in East Africa.

"Ray stood all day yesterday doing a hearing mission," trip organizer Frank Gamble said in a video, via The Baltimore Sun, summarizing the climb so far. "Last night, he had a bad night, fevered and really rough. So this morning, when he woke up, the foot was killing him, years of injuries and all of that. So we're going to miss him."

“In the end, Ray’s decision was to let the team move on without him, rather than hold them back or put himself in a position where an injury which requires surgery could become even more complicated,” the organization TackleKili posted on its website. “As always, his team backed his play.”

Lewis, 38, who spent 17 years in the NFL, retired last season after winning the Super Bowl. He joined Doug Pitt, the brother of actor Brad Pitt, and former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris to promote the clean water project in Africa. The day before the climb, Lewis was handing out hearing aides to children in Tanzania.

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Ray Lewis embarks on climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro today

Retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is embarking today on his climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point of Africa at an elevation of 19,340 feet.

Lewis is joined on the trip by Doug Pitt, the brother of actor Brad Pitt and a goodwill ambassador in Tanzania, and retired Pro Bowl Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tommie Harris.

Lewis is in Arusha, Tanzania to raise money and awareness about the need for clean water in East Africa. The climb is scheduled to run from today through July 8.

Prior to the climb, Lewis and the group have been giving hearing aids to children in a nearby village as part of the TackleKili mission for World Serve International and Pros for Africa.

Via the @TackleKili Twitter account, Lewis is shown outfiting children with the hearing aids.

On his Twitter account today, Lewis posted: "To give someone hearing for the 1st time in their life is Life changing."

Lewis, 38, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who retired after winning his second Super Bowl with the Ravens, now works for ESPN as a football analyst. He issued a statement last month about his involvement in the climb.

“In one month, I will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money and awareness for clean water projects in East Africa," Lewis wrote. "I am so FIRED UP for this adventure, but until then, I need your help to bring clean water wells to thousands of children and families. Show your support by following my TackleKili journey, spreading the word, and donating to TackleKili.”

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Ray Lewis Defensive Football Camp - University of Miami story

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Ray Lewis Gets Kids Moving With Youth Football Camp

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — He was supercharged on the football field and rallied his fellow teammates to perform well.

Now, Ray Lewis takes his enthusiasm back to the field, but this time, he is inspiring kids.

Vic Carter reports.

For far too many children, a Saturday morning is spend inside front of a TV or video game console.

But when Ray Lewis says “let’s get moving,” you do.

While the real Ravens wrap up mini camp, mini pro football players are following the lead of their idol–Ray Lewis.

“I like the workout and the way I use my muscles,” a boy said.

Some of the future stars impressed Ray by their work ethic at his camp.

“[My fans are] the reason why I’m motivated,” Lewis said.

“Because I was never the biggest, I was never the fastest, I was never the strongest. But the bottom line–my effort. My effort and how I did things,” he continued.
While these camps raise money for the Ray Lewis Foundation, there is a deeper value to the children, who benefit from the generosity of this champion.

“In a world now of social media and the video games and all these different things, kids are missing the essence of life. And the essence of life is being outside, being active,” Lewis said.

“You don’t have to always be in a sport or try to be chasing something. But the bottom line is–get outside and just be active. Take care of yourself,” he continued.

It has been a busy weekend for Ray Lewis.

Friday night he was bowling and playing paintball with his fans, again, to help raise money for his foundation.

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PHOTOS: proCanes Ed Reed & Ray Lewis Visit White House


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Ed Reed and Ray Lewis scheduled to attend White House ceremony

The 2012-13 Ravens will be well represented Wednesday when the team travels to the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama for its 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

Linebacker Ray Lewis, who retired following his 17th season in Baltimore, and safety Ed Reed, who signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Texans in March after playing 11 seasons for the Ravens, are both expected to attend the festivities, which include a private ring ceremony on Friday at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills.

Reed had hip surgery in April and hasn't been able to participate in workouts with his new team. 

Reserve linebacker and special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo, who was released this offseason, also is scheduled to attend along with the majority of the current Ravens who were on last year's Super Bowl roster.

The Ravens have their third and final session of organized team activities this week so a good part of the team is already in town.

However, there will be some noticeable absences, a list headed by wide receiver Anquan Boldin who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in March. Boldin will stay in California to participate in OTAs with his new team, confirmed a Ravens' official.

"Unfortunately I'm going to miss a great opportunity to be with my Super Bowl team at the White House," Boldin said on his Twitter account. "I know those guys will proudly share our Super Bowl memories and unforgettable moments on my behalf."

Safety Bernard Pollard, now on the Tennessee Titans after being released by the Ravens, and linebacker Paul Kruger, who signed with the Cleveland Browns early in free agency, also won't be in attendance at the White House. Kruger, the Ravens' sack leader last year, is expected to attend Friday's ring ceremony.

Reserve safety Sean Considine, now a free agent, has a family obligation that will keep him from attending.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Eagles quarterback Dennis Dixon, who was on the Ravens' practice squad for much of last season, and cornerback Cary Williams will also not attend the White House event. The Eagles have a minicamp this week and Williams, who started every game last year for the Ravens, has already gotten some criticism for missing some of the team's voluntary workouts under new coach Chip Kelly. 

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Ray Lewis pledges to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

More than three months after playing the final football game of a storied 17-year career, Ray Lewis has apparently found his next challenge.

The former Ravens linebacker said today on his Twitter page that he will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money and awareness for clean water projects in East Africa. Lewis will undertake the mission, which he has billed TackleKili, next month.

Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and is over 19,000 feet above sea level.

"I am so FIRED UP for this adventure, but until then, I need your help to bring clean water wells to thousands of children and families," Lewis said in a statement.

Lewis is asking for donations through the web site. Those who register will be eligible to win a Lewis autographed Ravens helmet.

Lewis, known for his rigorous offseason workout routines, played 228 regular-season games over 17 seasons, all with the Ravens. In his final game, the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII and send Lewis out on top.

He was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In announcing his retirement Wednesday, former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher called Lewis the best to ever play the position.

Lewis, 38, has accepted an NFL analyst role with ESPN for the coming season.

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Life after Ray Lewis for Ravens

Ray Lewis' signature fire and brimstone speeches were the trademark of his leadership style.

Now that the future Hall of Fame middle linebacker has retired, the Ravens' locker room chemistry is in transition. It's a decidedly quieter one.

Besides outspoken star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, most of the Ravens' top players have low-key personalities.

A different kind of leadership structure might emerge with Lewis as well as veteran free safety Ed Reed no longer on the roster, one with several different voices, albeit in a less pronounced way than previous incarnations of the AFC North franchise.

"The guys will fill it right up," Ravens coach John Harbaugh predicted. "The leadership lid maybe gets pushed off, maybe, and some other guys grow up behind into that opportunity. That's what will happen. I can see guys doing it already."

Among the leaders on the Ravens are Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, who's a confident public speaker, and quarterback Joe Flacco, who has a stoic, unflappable approach to the game. Signed to a $120.6 million blockbuster contract in March, Flacco tends to lead by example.

“Joe has been a great leader," Harbaugh said. "Joe has done a great job throughout his career in his own way. One thing about Joe: Nothing is going to change Joe. Joe is going to be who he is.

"I don’t think a change in the roster is going to change Joe, who he is. A change in the contract isn’t going to change Joe. Joe is Joe, and that’s what you love about him.”

Harbaugh acknowledged that not having Lewis does represent a significant change.

The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player was the face of the franchise for the past 17 years. Now Lewis is gone and has joined ESPN as a football analyst.

“I’ve thought about it," Harbaugh said. "Ray was never here during the offseason anyway, so I’d say it’s business as usual. How about that? (laughter) It’s normal, but Ray’s a part of us. He’s always going to be a part of us, just like all the other guys that have played here are always a part of us. Those guys are always welcome. They are back from time to time.

"Truly, when you are a part of a football team, anybody that has played any sport, football is the one that I know, you do walk together forever as teammates. So those guys are still a part of it, and this team goes forward and tries to build a legacy and see what they can do with it. That’s what’s exciting.”

Harbaugh mentioned newcomer Elvis Dumervil, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker signed to a $35 million contract after a fax debacle led to him being cut by the Denver Broncos, as someone who's developing into a leader because of his strong work ethic.

Dumervil was deferential to Lewis' legacy when asked about replacing Lewis' impact, on and off the field.

“You can’t, man," Dumervil said. "He’s a first-ballot [Hall of Famer], arguably one of the best players ever. All you can do, I think, you can learn from your past, and I think the history, the past he’s left here was remarkable and sort of set in stone. So his place will always be marked here, and you’ve just got to learn from that and try to keep it going.

"First of all, you've just got to go out and play. I think as Ray went out, he demonstrated, he played, and he walked the walk, he talked the talk. I think, soon enough, when the tides get rolling. That’s why I think it’s important to come out to offseason training, OTAs and those things, let the younger guys [see you]. You know it’s a profession, you’ve got to be professional about it, and you take your job seriously.”

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Ray Lewis doesn't think Ravens can repeat

NEW YORK — Are the Baltimore Ravens in position to repeat as champions after winning a Super Bowl during Ray Lewis' final season in the NFL? Unlikely, the retired linebacker said.

"It's going to be very hard, after you lose that much chemistry," Lewis told USA TODAY Sports. "But who knows? It's unpredictable, as always. Hopefully, they try to pull enough together, use their youth and try to make a run. But it's hard to try that formula. That formula usually doesn't work."

Lewis is visiting the city during NFL draft week to promote his partnership with United Athletes Foundation and their charity efforts in America's "underserved communities."

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving are members of the organization, and Lewis said he was starstruck when the pair first called on him.

"I'm humbled to be a part of anything that they do, much less to look down on my phone and having them call me," he said. "I'm like, 'Oh, my God, it's Hank Aaron!' "

"This is my next phase, and I want to make people happy. I want to make real change in this world."

Lewis said he will begin his new job as an NFL analyst for ESPN in late July. He said he's more than ready for on-camera work, and he has no shortage of opinions — and he's not afraid of controversy.

For instance, don't expect Lewis to endorse the NFL's efforts to make the game safer, including a new rule that bans running backs from using the crown of the helmet to initiate contact.

"I don't think it's fair," he said. "I think the best way to take care of the game is to let the game take care of itself. All these rules won't take care of the game. In fact, they're going to confuse more people than anything."

In addition to broadcasting, the post-football opportunities for the 13-time Pro Bowler have been plenty, he said, but he is taking his time and not taking on too much.

"It was never like, 'What am I going to do?' It was more, 'What will I not do?' " he said. "I had all these opportunities coming from so many different directions. And I told my team, 'We're going to go slow, take our time, and get involved with the right people.' "

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Ray Lewis still with team in spirit

When speaking with the media at the pre-draft press conference earlier this week, GM Ozzie Newsome said that Ray Lewis remains part of the Ravens despite having retired.

Newsome said there's so many ways that people in this area know that Lewis is a part of the Ravens even though is playing career is finished.

"I think Ray is still here in spirit," Newsome said when speaking at that press conference. "I was at a local restaurant deli on Sunday and they said, ‘Ray just was in here the other day.’ So, he is still in this community."

Lewis had been a huge leader on the Ravens in so many ways over the last several years, both on the field and in the locker room. And the lessons he taught the younger players are things they'll be able to use and grow with in the coming seasons. 

"Ray is still very much a part of this football team," Newsome said. "[Coach] John [Harbaugh] and I were talking about the number of players that were on the squad when he got here that have been here five years with John right now. Ray has impacted those kids, those guys in our locker room."

Newsome said the impact Lewis had on those young players will be felt even though future Hall of Famer won't be playing with the Ravens any more. 

"Ray has impacted Torrey [Smith]. Ray has impacted K.O. [Kelechi Osemele]," Newsome said. "So, his impact is going to be felt within this organization and in this locker room for a long time. We talked to [Mant'i] Te’o, and they know about this locker room and Ray Lewis, so his impact is lasting.”

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ESPN says Ray Lewis is most valuable pick of this era

Most Ravens fans will tell you that inside linebacker Ray Lewis was the greatest draft pick in franchise history.

But the fine stat heads over at ESPN have calculated that Lewis was the NFL’s most valuable pick since 1994.

In this week’s ESPN the Magazine, they put together a chart of the best draft picks from each franchise based on Surplus Approximate Value (AV), which essentially measures the difference between what each player produced during his career compared to what he was expected to produce based on where he was drafted.

Lewis, who was drafted 26th overall in 1996, led all players with a Surplus AV of plus-183.3. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was a sixth-round draft pick, is second at plus-170.1.

Three other players on the snazzy chart had a Surplus AV above plus-140: Terrell Owens (third round in 1996), Derrick Brooks (first round in 1995), and Peyton Manning (first round in 1998).

Lewis won two Super Bowls with the Ravens, a Super Bowl MVP award and two NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards. He made more than 2,600 career tackles and he is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 career sacks and 30 career interceptions. The future Hall of Famer's numbers speak for themselves.

Still, it surprised me a little that Lewis edged out Brady because the expectations for a sixth-rounder compared to a first-rounder would be significantly lower. That being said, Brady can surpass Lewis in another year or two if he continues to perform at a Pro Bowl level.

According to Pro Football Reference, Lewis is tied with Reggie White for fifth all-time with an Approximate Value of 222. Brady is 24th at 178. With an AV of 254, Brett Favre is the all-time leader.

ESPN the Magazine also had a chart of each team’s worst draft pick since 1994, and linebacker Dan Cody was the Ravens' worst. The 2006 second-rounder had a Surplus AV of minus-23.0.

That being said, Cody, who made just one tackle and played in two games during an injury-riddled Ravens career, was still the “best” worst pick on the chart, which was a who’s who of NFL busts.

Overall, calculating the values of thousands of picks, ESPN says the Ravens ranked fourth in Surplus AV since 1994. Not too shabby.

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PHOTO: Check out this Oklahoma man's giant Ray Lewis tattoo


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Newly retired Ray Lewis still soaking up the moment

Wearing a black fedora and a dark checkered blazer and with his daughter at his side, Ray Lewis attended the premiere screening of the DVD that chronicles the Ravens’ Super Bowl winning season last night at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric.

His first offseason appearance in Baltimore as a retired player, Lewis admitted that it felt a little weird to not be preparing for another year of football.

“Honestly, there’s no pressure because every year is always a new year, every offseason is always a new offseason. You’re always gearing up for something,” Lewis said. “But for me now, it’s more gearing up for business, more gearing up for life and more gearing up for the kids. The pressure meter is down a little bit and that’s probably the biggest difference.”

Lewis announced his pending retirement a couple of days before the Ravens playoff opener against the Indianapolis Colts. At the time, he could have hardly imagined that his 17th NFL season would end with Lewis helping the Ravens win their second Super Bowl, a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Asked last night about how retirement is treating him, Lewis said: “Life is good. A lot of things are going on, spending a lot of time with the family, spending a lot of time with the kids. I’ve just been relaxing a lot and really soaking up the moment.”

Lewis was the honorary starter of the Daytona 500 and he recently threw out a first pitch at a Detroit Tigers spring training game in his hometown of Lakeland, Fla.

However, one thing Lewis hasn’t done is return to the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills. In fact, he said that he’s yet to even clean out his locker.

“I really haven’t,” Lewis said. “I haven’t been back over there yet. When I go back, I’m just going to relax and chill when I do go back. I haven’t moved anything out yet.”

Lewis retired because he wanted to spend more time with his kids, including his son, Ray III, who will be a freshman on the University of Miami football team in the fall. However, he won’t stray too far from the NFL. Lewis is expected to serve as an analyst for ESPN.  

“It will probably happen, but it will happen on our timing,” Lewis said when asked about his future television role. “I think both sides understand what we’re doing and where we’re going with it.”

While Lewis has said that he’s not interested in being a coach, it’s likely that he’ll still be around the Ravens at different points going forward.

A future Hall of Famer, Lewis will undoubtedly be enshrined in the Ravens’ Ring of Honor and owner Steve Bisciotti even talked about having a statue of the linebacker erected outside M&T Bank Stadium.

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PHOTOS: Buy Ray Lewis' Florida mansion for $5 million

Ray Lewis has quit football and apparently he's leaving his Florida mansion behind too.

The Ravens star has put his West Palm Beach property on the market, asking $5 million for the luxury estate.

The home, along the prestigious Ocean Drive, boasts seven bedrooms and more than 6,700 square feet to spread out and squirrel dance. Built in 2001, there are also nine bathrooms, a five-car garage, a pool and an elevator.

It's a pink Mediterranean, surrounded by lush tropical landscaping. From his back deck, Lewis could have lounged on deck chairs while watching the waves roll in. There's also an outdoor dining table. 

Inside it's rather elegant, with cathedral ceilings, marble everywhere and grand columns. There's even a piano in the corner of what must be the living room.

The kitchen granite alone probably costs more than an ordinary person's entire house. His laundry room? That's the size of what most would consider a big kitchen. And the master bath? Room for the entire Ravens squad to wash up at once.

A few fun details:

There's at least one bidet.

There's a manly, wood-heavy office with a football helmet on one of the built-in shelving units. There's also -- go figure -- a bowling pin.

A small herd of elephant statues -- two -- hangs out near the piano.

Lewis bought the property in 2004 for just over $5.2 million.

Click here to see more photos.

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ESPN announces Ray Lewis hire

On Tuesday, the Ravens lost multiple key players.

On Wednesday, ESPN officially trotted out former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as an employee, to talk about the players the Ravens have lost.

The hire officially has been announced, and he’s already on air talking about how the Ravens will proceed without him and Anquan Boldin and Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe.

But forget about objectivity from Ray when it comes to the Ravens.  “It’s not as if I’m not gonna be around that program, to always be around to help them in whatever way I can,” Lewis said on the air moments ago.

He’ll specifically be around ESPN on Monday nights during football season.  Lewis, per ESPN, will join the on-site desk, with Stuart Scott, Steve Young, and Trent Dilfer.

Lewis also will make appearances on Sunday NFL Countdown, contribute once per week to ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, and Lewis will “have the opportunity to host specials similar to Jon Gruden’s QB Camp series.”

The arrangement is good news for Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson.  It was believed that, with Lewis and possibly Tony Gonzalez joining ESPN as full-time Sunday contributors, the C+Key Music Factory would be shown the door.

It also means that Lewis will be able to attend most if not all of his son’s games at the University of Miami on Saturdays, and then to head to the site of the Monday night game.

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Ray Lewis placed on reserve-retired list

The Ravens have officially placed inside linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk on the reserve-retired list.

With Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Birk, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, retiring, the Ravens have realized a total savings of $6.4 million against the salary cap for the 2013 fiscal year.

Lewis' retirement gives the Ravens back $4.35 million in cap savings while Birk's retirement gives the Ravens back $2.05 million against the salary cap. Lewis had a scheduled $5.4 million base salary, and Birk was due $2.75 million.

With 49 contract commitments for 2013, including $1.8 million in dead money for former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff and cap figures of $13.02 million for outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and $11.05 million for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the Ravens' new salary-cap total is $105.919 million with Lewis and Birk going off the books.

With the NFL Players Association informing agents via a letter obtained by The Baltimore Sun that the salary-cap limit is set at approximately $123 million with over $200 million carried over from last yesar, then the Ravens currently have $18.2633 million in cap room to spend. That figure includes $1.182 million carried over from 2012, but it doesn't reflect any re-signings yet of the Ravens' unrestricted free agents or tenders assigned to restricted free agents.

Lewis and Birk retired following the Ravens' Super Bowl championship victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Lewis announced that he would retire prior to the start of the postseason. And Birk made his announcement last Friday during an appearance at Battle Grove Elementary in Baltimore.

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Ray Lewis adds star power to Daytona 500

The stars of music, TV and the NFL helped get Sunday’s Daytona 500 started.

The A-list included former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who was the honorary starter for the race and waved the green flag.

“I’m going to be a little nervous,” Lewis said during a pre-race news conference. “They told me they have one rule — don’t drop the flag.”

Lewis was on the winning Super Bowl team in his final NFL game three weeks ago. He not only has become a race fan but has become friends with defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski.

“We came into contact a few months ago, and we sent each other a lot of motivational texts,” Lewis said. “He came to a couple of games, and he followed my last ride. I respect what these guys do, and I wanted to be a part of this.”

Lewis didn’t reflect much on the Ravens winning the Super Bowl. He was more excited about the fact that his son, Ray Lewis III, signed to play football with his alma mater, the University of Miami. Ray III is a three-star running back from Lake Mary Prep.

“Seeing my son in college will be the most amazing thing I’ve ever done,” Lewis said.

Also participating in the pre-race festivities were actor James Franco of the Spider-Man movies, who gave the command for the racers to start their engines, and the Zac Brown Band. They performed a concert before the race, and Clay Cook, a member of the band, performed the national anthem.

A First Coast presence came from the Mayport Naval Station Color Guard, which presented the colors.

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Ray Lewis trading Ravens for ESPN

Ray Lewis has joined another team: ESPN.

SI.com first reported on Jan. 3 that Lewis was close to signing with ESPN, and Tuesday at a launch event in New York City for a new ESPN Films documentary series, ESPN president John Skipper confirmed the hire when asked how comfortable he was with the possibility of Lewis as an NFL analyst. The Ravens linebacker will have a significant role next fall as an NFL analyst on the network's Monday Night Countdown program and will also appear on Sunday NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. The formal announcement is expected to come sometime in the next two weeks because the contract is still not officially signed, and neither ESPN nor Lewis is pressing for an announcement.

"We had an opportunity last fall to get Ray and we debated internally some of the history," Skipper told SI.com. "Obviously, we decided we were comfortable with it. We must have because we did it. I will tell you we did remind ourselves of some of the issues. We sort of decided that the NFL welcomed him back into the fold and the fans welcomed him back into the fold. I think we are fine with second chances and we think he will make great television. Ultimately, we were comfortable with it."

One of Lewis' main requirements was flexibility in his schedule so he could attend the games of his son, Ray Lewis III, who will be a freshman running back/defensive back next season at his father's alma mater, the University of Miami. Lewis will likely work a number of Sundays in Bristol, Conn., depending on his personal schedule. He is not expected to appear regularly on ESPN's airwaves until the start of next season.

When SI.com interviewed executives at CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports and The NFL Network in December to find out who was on their watch lists among current NFL players, Lewis ranked very high.

"Ray Lewis has an intensity about him and a way of communicating that is very infectious," CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said at the time. "He is a bigger-than-life personality, very articulate and [has] an incredible passion for the game. If Ray Lewis decided to take that same passion and put it into a broadcasting career, I think he would be a terrific studio analyst or, I imagine, game analyst, too."

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Many 'firsts' of Ray Lewis' career

Seventeen years ago, Ravens star inside linebacker Ray Lewis was an exuberant rookie competing against Indianapolis Colts veteran quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

Rushing on an inside blitz, Lewis decked Harbaugh for the first sack of his NFL career in the Ravens' inaugural season.

Order "Purple Majesty," The Baltimore Sun's new book chronicling the Ravens' Super Bowl championship season.

"Absolutely, I remember it," Lewis said during the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVII. "How could I forget it? It is one of those things that when you are playing the game when you first come in as a rookie, you are just running around. And I was just running around making plays. When I sacked him, I remember getting up and doing this dance with my shoulders, and shaking my shoulders, or whatever. And later, I became teammates with him as well. Been a long time, but the ride, I would never complain about one moment of it."

The Colts got the victory that day, a 26-21 win despite Harbaugh being sacked four times.

"My legend grows," Jim Harbaugh quipped recently when his father, Jack, reminded him of being sacked by the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "Ray Lewis' first sack."

Lewis and Harbaugh, once known as "Captain Comeback," were later teammates in Baltimore.

"I think he was exactly how he is as a coach," Lewis said. "He is kind of straightforward. He is a hard worker. He understands what he wants to get done. And when he comes in to get it done, he is going to do everything he has in his power to get it done. He is a very passionate person, but he always has purpose in what he is doing. That is what I remember most about Jim."

Other Ray Lewis firsts:

First victory: Sept. 1, 1996. Lewis starts at middle linebacker in the Ravens' first game, a 19-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium.

First loss: Sept. 8, 1996. In a 31-17 setback to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Lewis makes 10 tackles.

First pre-game dance: Sept. 10, 2000. Lewis, showing glee upon his return to PSINet Stadium after an off-season in which a double-murder trial put his career in doubt, dances onto the field during player introductions before a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars as the crowd roars.

First tackle: Sept. 1, 1996. Lewis stops Oakland fullback Derrick Fenner in the first half of the Ravens' win over the Raiders.

First interception: Sept. 1, 1996. In the same game, Lewis picks off a pass from Billy Joe Hobert in the end zone for a second-quarter touchback against Oakland.

First interception returned for a touchdown: Jan. 7, 2001. Lewis swipes a pass from Steve McNair and goes 50 yards for a score in the Ravens' 24-10 division playoff victory over the Tennessee Titans.

First fumble recovery: Oct. 8, 2000. Lewis scoops up a botched snap at the Ravens' 7-yard line in a 15-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

First safety: Oct. 10, 1999. In a 14-11 loss to Tennessee, Lewis drops Titans running back Rodney Thomas in the end zone.

First Super Bowl: 2001. The Ravens defeat theNew York Giants, 34-7 in Tampa, and Lewis is named Most Valuable Player.

First Pro Bowl: 1997.

First time All Pro (first team): 1999.

First NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award: 2000.

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Ray Lewis was fearsome, polarizing -- and loved by his city

Ray Lewis was born to play football, so much so that you wonder if he'll ever find the joy and satisfaction in the rest of his life that he found on the field.

You go ahead and pick your iconic image of the man. Here's mine: No. 52 with shoulders hunched, glowering across the line of scrimmage, face paint streaked with sweat, eyes boring in on the quarterback in the seconds before the ball is snapped.

Whether we ever got to know the real Ray Lewis in his 17 years in Baltimore is debatable, and we'll get to that in a moment.

But here's what we do know: He was the best middle linebacker ever to play the game. And maybe he was the best defensive player of all time, too.
He was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a 13-time Pro Bowl selection, and he played with an unmatched passion and a love for physical contact that was astonishing.

That's why I always maintained that having a jacked-up Lewis do the “squirrel dance” before home games was a smart move on the part of the Ravens. It let him blow off steam. Otherwise, he would have simply roared out of the tunnel during the introductions and laid out some poor sucker on the other team's sideline, earning an ejection even before the national anthem.

Opponents feared him like no one else. No one hit harder than Ray Lewis in his prime. He had speed, incredible sideline-to-sideline quickness and a complete disregard for his own well-being.

He didn't just tackle. He obliterated.

“You always knew you'd better know where No. 52 was at all times,” former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George told The Tennessean newspaper. “Because if you didn't — if you weren't paying attention — that could be the end of your career.”

In a memorable game against the Titans in November 2001, Lewis hit George so hard that former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister famously observed that George “folded like a baby” afterward.

But George was hardly the only NFL player who was gun-shy after a hit by Lewis.

Chris Sanders, the former Titans wide receiver, conceded being so terrified of the Ravens' fearsome linebacker that he hit the turf in one game rather than absorb another blow.

Ray Lewis had a work ethic second to none, with an offseason training regimen that would make a Navy SEAL blanch.

He was the undisputed leader of the Ravens, their spiritual heart and soul. He was a master motivator, a true gridiron preacher who made believers of his teammates. Paul Kruger was just one of several Ravens who told me that after listening to one of Lewis' amped-up pregame sermons, you'd go out and fight a pack of timberwolves for the man.

He played with a chip on his shoulder and insisted that his teammates did, too. Would it shock you to know that one of Lewis' all-time favorite movies is “Gladiator”?

The story of Maximus, powerful Roman general beloved by the masses who is unfairly toppled and reborn as a gladiator burning to exact revenge against his tormentors — that is so Ray Lewis, it's frightening. Except Russell Crowe couldn't summon half the inner fury that fueled Lewis for all those years since his tough childhood in Lakeland, Fla.

Off the field, Lewis was a more complicated figure.

The Ravens will tell you he turned his life around after he and two friends were implicated in the killings of two young men in Atlanta after the Super Bowl 13 years ago.

Murder charges against Lewis were dropped in exchange for his testimony against his co-defendants. He was found guilty of a single charge of obstruction of justice. Eventually, he paid the victims' families to put several lawsuits behind him.

But Lewis never really explained his actions on that tragic January morning that left two men bleeding to death, two families torn with grief, and a host of questions about what exactly happened and who was responsible.

Outside Baltimore, the town he grew to love and where he became a generous donor to civic and charitable causes, Lewis has been a polarizing figure.

His critics ripped him for being self-centered, egotistical and melodramatic. They accused him of using his deep religious faith as a shield to ward off uncomfortable questions about performance-enhancing drugs that surfaced right before the Super Bowl in the midst of his “last ride” reverie.

But Ravens fans embraced him like no other player in the team's history. And whether they ever got to know the real Ray Lewis was immaterial to them.
The Ray Lewis they watched for 17 years was plenty good enough.

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Terrell Suggs: Ravens' Super Bowl run 'next to impossible' if Ray Lewis hadn't retired

The Baltimore Ravens' successful Super Bowl march is the ideal case of addition by subtraction. After all, according to a prominent defender on the team, the Ravens would not have secured the second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history had linebacker Ray Lewis not lit a fire with his retirement revelation Jan. 2, four days before the playoffs began.

"What sparked it was Ray's announcement when he said this would be his last playoff run with us, I would definitely say that was hands down what sparked it and got our minds right," fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs told NFL Network's NFL Total Access on Friday night.

"We've always been a pretty dangerous team in the playoffs. We knew with Ray's announcing that he was retiring and how we normally play in the playoffs, those two combined together rallied one of the most emotional runs I've ever been a part of."

Though Baltimore lost four of five to end the regular season, surely with an ascending offense and (finally) a fairly healthy defense, the Ravens could have won it all even if Lewis had decided to return for an 18th season ... right, Terrell?

"Um, no. Probably not," Suggs claimed. "We needed something to get us over the hump. To do what we had to do — to beat the future in Andrew Luck, and to go into (Denver with) Peyton Manning having an MVP season and going there and winning, and then going up to Foxborough, a place where we lost the previous year against arguably one of the best quarterbacks (Tom Brady) of our time — without that emotional lift, it probably would've been next to impossible.

"But with the lead of 52 (Lewis' jersey number), we had enough to do it."

Really? A success-laden, veteran team like the Ravens needed something else to fuel a championship sprint? Even when other telegraphed retirements (Tiki Barber) have proven distractions? Maybe it's further testament to the intangibles that are so critical to success in the NFL and/or the fact that every locker room responds differently to real or perceived adversity ... or it's just Suggs' way of further burnishing the legacy of his retiring buddy.

But if this is really what works for the Ravens, then they need to get veteran center Matt Birk to hang around for one more year, re-sign free safety Ed Reed for two and perhaps get an emotional last ride out of Suggs in 2015.

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Ravens would be interested in having Ray Lewis as a coach, but Ray isn’t

Throughout his career (and especially in recent years), Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has operated essentially as an on-field coach.

Now that Lewis is retired as a player, the door is open as a coach.  Not surprisingly, Lewis isn’t interested.

“All of the guys that have played here come back often.  Talk to players, and they are always welcome,” Harbaugh said Thursday, via CSN Baltimore.com.  “Of course, Ray would be no less than that.  We have talked about it.  He knows he is always welcome.  He has not expressed an interest to coach.  I have asked him, and he is not interested.  But we have talked about it.”

Of course he’s not interested.  It’s long hours and low pay.  And it cuts against his desire to spend more time with his family, and also to get paid a lot more money for a lot less time at ESPN.

Ray also has said he wants to be an actor, which if he can make it to the “A” list pays a lot more than what he made for a full season of football.
Direct involvement in a football team has taken Ray Lewis as far as it ever will.  Unless and until other opportunities dry up, there’s no reason for him to coach — even though he’d likely be very good at it.

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Suggs doesn’t think he’s Lewis’s successor as Ravens’ leader

Ray Lewis had been the undisputed leader of the Ravens for more than a decade. Terrell Suggs doesn’t think he can fill the leadership void left by Lewis’s retirement all by himself.

Asked on NFL Network’s Total Access whether he becomes the Ravens’ leader now that Lewis is retired, Suggs said that he actually sees quarterback Joe Flacco as the leader the rest of the team will look to.

“We’re not worried about that right now. We’re still on this magic carpet ride, we’re enjoying the championship. Regardless of what anyone says, Joe Flacco, he’s proven he’s one hell of a leader, so I don’t have any problems sharing the role with him,” Suggs said.

Suggs added that the Ravens would “probably not” have won the Super Bowl if it weren’t for Lewis’s announcement prior to the playoffs that he planned to retire. Suggs said the rest of the team became more focused knowing that it would be Lewis’s last ride.

“You could say what sparked it was Ray’s announcement when he said that this would be his last playoff run with us,” Suggs said. “I would definitely say that was hands-down what sparked it and got our minds going in the right place.”

Suggs also said the power outage at the Super Bowl was not an issue.

“We weren’t going to let something like the lights going out steal our glory,” Suggs said. “We were like, ‘Once we get the lights back on, we’re going to get back to this ass-whipping.’”

It was the last ass-whipping Suggs and Lewis got to administer together.

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John Harbaugh told his staff Ray Lewis couldn’t cover Davis, Crabtree

During the Super Bowl, Ravens coach John Harbaugh told his assistant coaches that they needed to make sure their defensive calls didn’t leave linebacker Ray Lewis covering 49ers tight end Vernon Davis or receiver Michael Crabtree over the middle.

The 49ers had a lot of success sending Davis and Crabtree over the middle, where Lewis simply didn’t have the speed to keep up with them in coverage. As shown on NFL Turning Point on NBC Sports Network, that led to Harbaugh getting on his headset and telling the Ravens’ defensive coaching staff that they needed to call coverages that didn’t require Lewis to go one-on-one with either of them.

“We can’t let Ray be matched up on 85 or 15 all day when we’re playing quarters,” Harbaugh told his coaches.

Davis, who caught six passes for 104 yards, was having a lot of fun rubbing it in Lewis’s face. At one point he walked up to Lewis and yelled, “It’s gonna be a long day for you!”

On the sideline, Davis told a 49ers coach that if they could keep getting him isolated on Lewis over the middle, there was no way Lewis was going to stop him.
“He can’t match up,” Davis said. “I don’t care what route I got.”

Davis was right about that: Lewis couldn’t match up with him. Fortunately for the Ravens, the rest of the team played well enough to overcome a major liability at middle linebacker.

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Ravens to erect a Ray Lewis statue

The irony of the overlap between football and religion is that the ultimate prize in the NFL is worshiped like the golden calf from Exodus 32.

Folks in Baltimore will eventually be able to bow at the sculpted likeness of linebacker Ray Lewis.

Via ESPN.com, owner Steve Bisciotti said Thursday that the Ravens will be building a statue honoring Lewis.

“I think he set himself apart in Baltimore sports history, and we will certainly look into it and I would not be surprised if there is one there in the next year or two,” Bisciotti said.

Yeah, it’s common for mankind to honor great men and women with statues.  Still, there’s a fine line between respect and idolatry.  And anyone who claims that the statue of Lewis cries real tears on the anniversary of the team’s most recent Super Bowl win will probably be on the wrong side of that line.

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PHOTO: Ray Lewis & Son Ray Lewis Jr. Throw up "The U" On National Signing Day


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Ray Lewis' son headed to Miami

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — For Ray Lewis III, going to Miami has been a safe assumption since the day he was born.

His father — the newly retired Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis — played for the Hurricanes. His mother is a Miami graduate as well. So when it came time for their son to pick a school, the decision was easy.

Lewis III was one of 10 players to send letters of intent back to Miami on Wednesday, joining a group of five more early enrollees in a class that the Hurricanes think can make an immediate impact. Other big additions for Miami included wide receiver Stacy Coley, linebacker Jermaine Grace, safety Jamal Carter, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and quarterback Kevin Olsen, the brother of another former Hurricane, NFL tight end Greg Olsen.

Lewis III sent his letter of intent in very early Wednesday, then with his father at his side, went through a ceremonial signing later in the day at his school, Lake Mary Prep near Orlando, Fla.

"I made a stand my junior year in college, the year he was born, that it was time for me to go to the league," said Ray Lewis, whose last game was the Super Bowl he helped the Ravens win this past Sunday. "Now the year that he's walking into college I've made another stand that it's time for me to leave the league. Him being born has been a factor in entering the league and leaving the league."

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Ravens' Super Bowl success is ultimately a Ray Lewis love story

NEW ORLEANS – His work was done. His conquest was complete. And with his sons in tow, a victory party to attend and a post-football existence to begin, Ray Lewis politely declined to answer another question about the Baltimore Ravens' remarkable Super Bowl XLVII triumph.

Then, suddenly, the departing star changed his mind: The subject matter stopped him. What's love got to do with it? Lewis, the Ravens' legendary linebacker and unparalleled leader, the man who'd just been part of a dramatic goal-line stand to preserve a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, flashed a satisfied smile and gave the final quote of his 17-year career.

"Love," Lewis said, "is the reason why we're here."

He took a few steps and stopped to embrace the only other Ravens player who remained in the locker room, cornerback Cary Williams.

"They just don't understand, do they, Cary, how much we love each other?" Lewis asked. He turned back to me, resuming his last interview as an active player: "But it's a family, man, for life. For life! We're a family, man. And that's what it's really all about: When you see people win championships, they do it based off love."

In truth, these Ravens had a litany of special qualities. To defeat the favored 49ers in front of 71,024 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – and with the whole world watching on television – the Ravens had to demonstrate the resilience and collective will which carried them throughout this special season.

"If it wasn't tough, it wouldn't have been right," veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said afterward. "I mean, by any means necessary. Whatever it took to get the job done. We never gave up faith. We just believed. We're a galvanized unit. We're battle-tested. We've been through the flames together, and that's why we came out world champions."

Sure enough, after jumping out to a 28-6 lead on Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return to start the second half, Baltimore would have to endure a bizarre, momentum-killing, 34-minute delay caused by a Superdome power outage and survive a furious 49ers comeback that brought San Francisco to within five yards of a go-ahead score.

Lewis, a polarizing and attention-consuming figure in the week leading up to the game, didn't make a play as the Ravens made their season-saving stand. He didn't have to, because others stepped up, which was precisely the point.

In a season of emotional speeches, including the Jan. 2 team meeting in which Lewis underscored the urgency of the Ravens' playoff quest by informing teammates that the upcoming postseason would be his "last ride," the linebacker saved his most powerful words for the most pivotal moment.

On Saturday night in a banquet room on the third floor of the Hilton Riverside – coach John Harbaugh, bucking the convention of virtually every Super Bowl team of the last two decades, decided not to move his unflappable team to a lower-key location on the eve of the Ultimate Game – Lewis gave a tearful, 11-minute speech that had many of his ultra-tough teammates bawling like Oprah watching "Terms of Endearment."

"It was awesome. Awesome. Exactly what we needed," said Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs, the 2011 NFL defensive player of the year who fought back from Achilles tendon and biceps tears to contribute to his team's unlikely title run. "But what else do you expect from the ultimate leader? There'll never be another like him.

"He talked about his teammates. He said, ‘When we get this done tomorrow, we'll be linked together forever. … Let's go show the world how special our brotherhood is.' And that's what we went and did."

If your instincts are to roll your eyes at such proclamations, I strongly advise you to fight them. In our football-obsessed culture, we tend to characterize the game as one of matchups and schemes, of big hits and pretty passes, of statistical trends and superior athleticism. It can be all of that, at times, but at its core the sport – even at its highest level – is about trusting the person next to you and bonding together to create an aura of imperviousness.

And, as Lewis asserts, love, at least for these Ravens, is the most powerful force of all.

"I mean, we were ready to die for each other out there," Ayanbadejo said. "And I know that's a bit dramatic, but that's the way this team is. That's what Ray has talked about. The reason we've succeeded is because of the way we feel about each other. It's something Ray Lewis has told us since Day 1. ‘What would you do for the man next to you?' For us, the answer is, 'Anything.'

"Love put us over the top. You wouldn't think it, because football is a game known for machismo and violence and toughness, but love is what drove our success. Just like the most epic action movies end up being love stories – 'The Matrix,' 'Star Wars,' 'Gladiator.' This Ravens team is a love story."

The story began 54 weeks ago, when a pair of late blunders doomed Baltimore to a crushing defeat to the New England Patriots in the 2011 AFC championship game. A postgame speech by Lewis helped drive the Ravens to overcome a litany of obstacles and navigate their way through internal tension that included a contentious late October meeting after the linebacker went down with what was believed to be a season-ending triceps injury.

In the playoffs, after a first-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts in which Lewis was showered with affection following his final home game, Baltimore pulled off road upsets over future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the latter an AFC title game rematch with the Pats in Foxborough, Mass.
"We had the toughest road in these playoffs," Suggs said Sunday night. "We did it, baby. We did it together."

In those 11 emotional minutes on Saturday night, Lewis reminded his teammates of all of that, and more. Harbaugh, whose impending clash with younger brother and Niners coaching counterpart Jim rivaled Lewis' swan song as the predominant pre-Super Bowl theme, spoke for less than a minute before yielding the floor to the linebacker, and the passion came pouring out of the team's 37-year-old leader.

"Ray said last night that he's never felt love like this on any team that he's ever played on in this life," Ayanbadejo said. "And he included the 2000 team [which won the Ravens' only other Super Bowl]. He said that we're willing to do anything for each other, and that's when you become a champion, when you're willing to do anything for the man next to you.

"People were crying. He was crying. It was the last time he was ever gonna stand up in front of us. So it was an intimate, special moment that we had together. It was a night I'll never forget. It was just a culmination of everything we believed in, 54 weeks ago when we lost that AFC championship game."

As if the Ravens needed an additional emotional jolt, it came on Super Sunday. A few hours before the game, former Baltimore linebacker and current senior adviser to player development O.J. Brigance addressed the team. Brigance, whose battle with ALS has touched Baltimore's players on a daily basis, spoke through a communication device that translates his thoughts and, said Suggs, "just put it all in perspective, about us being a team of vision and all we've been through."

Once Baltimore's players took the field at the Superdome, they felt the love of their raucous, chanting supporters. Twelve years ago at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, in the franchise's fifth season of existence, Ravens fans were vastly outnumbered by those of the New York Giants, a team Baltimore would dispatch by a 34-7 score.

This time, the roars of their purple-clad peeps dominated the stadium. Ravens fans would have plenty to cheer about, from the jump: Fifth-year quarterback Joe Flacco, continuing a stellar postseason (11 touchdown passes, no interceptions, matching Joe Montana's incredible 1989 performance), tossed three first-half scoring throws, the first a 13-yard beauty to veteran wideout Anquan Boldin (six catches, 104 yards) in the back of the end zone and the last a 56-yard bomb to Jones.

A David Akers field goal on the final play of the first half closed the Niners' deficit to 21-6, but when Jones took the second-half kickoff to the house, it looked like lights out for the 49ers. Then, darkness descended, and it was lights out for the Ravens' runaway victory.

When the game finally resumed everything changed. The Niners, as they had after falling into an early 17-0 hole in their NFC championship game victory over the Atlanta Falcons, launched a fast and furious comeback that would bring them to within two points with 10:04 remaining, failing to tie the game when Colin Kaepernick's throw for a two-point conversion sailed over the head of Randy Moss.

The Ravens responded with a long field-goal drive to take a 34-29 lead with 4:23 remaining. Preserving it – and the team's championship dreams – would be on the defense, as it had so many times in Lewis' long career.

"When we kicked that field goal with 4:32 to go, I said, ‘Oh [expletive], we needed to put ‘em away,'" Suggs said. "That was soooo stressful."

Frank Gore's 33-yard burst around left end to the Baltimore 7 brought the stress level to an almost untenable level. Almost. Lewis, Suggs and their fellow defenders, including veteran safety Ed Reed (who'd earlier grabbed his ninth career postseason interception, tying an NFL record), weren't having that. They couldn't. This was about securing a legacy, finishing a long quest and honoring the bonds forged over years of similar struggles.

One two-yard run by LaMichael James and three Kaepernick-to-Crabtree incompletions later, the Ravens had shown the world how special their brotherhood was. Baltimore took over at its own 5, and after killing most of the clock on three short runs, Harbaugh had punter Sam Koch take an intentional safety. With four seconds remaining, Koch handled free-kick duties from his own 20 and blasted a punt to Ted Ginn Jr. who, with apologies to recently fired Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, would have needed the assistance of his entire family to go the 69 yards needed to win this game.

Ginn made it to midfield before being tackled, the season literally ending with a fallen opponent on the NFL shield logo while Lewis, as he'd envisioned in weeks leading up to the game, celebrated with his teammates amid purple confetti swirling up above.

Ninety minutes later, after answering one, final question about love, Lewis strode out of the locker room and entered the hallway leading up to the Superdome exit. As he headed toward team bus No. 5 outside, scores of stadium workers in red jackets spontaneously burst into applause.

I've covered 20 Super Bowls, including last-game triumphs by retiring stars John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a sight like that.

Then again, I've never encountered a leader like Lewis nor, in many ways, have I seen a team like the 2012 Ravens. Their season was a succession of perseverance through tough circumstances and communal defiance that baffled outsiders but made plenty of sense to the men who made it happen.

It was a love story with an epic ending, and when the star gave his speech on the eve of his last and most satisfying act as a leader, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

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PHOTO: proCanes Ray Lewis & Bryant McKinnie on Their Flight Back To Baltimore as Champs


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Ex-teammate calls out Ray Lewis for being nervous during Super Bowl XLVII

The Baltimore Ravens rallied around Ray Lewis to win the Super Bowl for him, but they certainly didn't win it because of him.

At least that's what Trevor Pryce, current CBS Sports Network analyst and former Ravens defensive end, had to say Monday during an appearance on The Jim Rome Show.

"Half of his playoff check should go to Dannell Ellerbe for making that last play on that last fade route," said Pryce, who was teammates with Lewis for five seasons. "The other half to Greg Roman, the 49ers offensive coordinator. ...

"I think (Lewis) played with a case of the nerves. I think he had the yips. I really do."

To Pryce's point, San Francisco was onto something in playing at Lewis early on during Super Bowl XLVII. On one run to the left, Lewis filled the gap and had a clean shot at Frank Gore, but looked silly when Gore side-stepped him. It was clear, too, that Lewis was no match to cover 49ers tight end Vernon Davis -- or anybody else over the middle for that matter.

But, as Pryce alluded to, the 49ers didn't continue with this plan of attack -- among other bad decisions. And for that, Lewis got away with winning a title before retirement despite playing his worst game of the postseason.

Pryce attributed Lewis' performance to nerves.

"He had it bad; he didn't look like himself, even his new self. Forget his old self, that guy's gone, that guy's named Patrick Willis," Pryce said. "But even the guy he was (in the AFC Championship Game), he wasn't that guy. He had a case of it bad, badly. It was almost like he was just hoping let's get this over with."

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Ray Lewis taught Mary J. Blige his squirrel dance at Ravens victory party

And on the seventh day, he danced.

Linebacking legend and noted wallflower Ray Lewis got on stage at the Baltimore Ravens victory party to give R&B superstar Mary J. Blige a personal lesson in his patented "squirrel dance."

The Ravens posted a picture to Twitter of Ray and Mary holding hands on stage, while dozens of attendees took pictures on their phones.

The dance is pretty easy, Mary. It can be broken down into 26 simple moves: Step, step, bird flap, bird flap, upward nose nuzzle, fire on pant cuff, jump, jump, jump, appreciate the backing Nelly track, left foot, right foot, here come the hotstepper, shimmy, slide, shimmy, slide, clap, clap, break it off, chest thrust, arms up, bigger chest thrust, first pump, leg kick and a casual handshake with Ed Reed.

Blige performed at the Ravens' victory party for friends, family and Illuminati.

Rick Reilly of ESPN said team owner Steve Bisciotti spent $2 million on the party. It featured an international music star, a 35-foot video screen, a dozen-piece backing band and the presence of Beyonce. Such lavish perks are what Joe Flacco's agent calls "leverage" when he's trying to get every last cent from Bisciotti next month.

The retiring linebacker wasn't the only one giving dance lessons Sunday night. Super Bowl star Jacoby Jones taught his version of the squirrel dance to the postgame crew on CBS Sports Network. John Harbaugh politely declined.

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Ray Lewis' speech leaves Baltimore Ravens in tears

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs insists future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis is the "ultimate leader," and there will "never be another like him."

Teammates tell Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver that Lewis indeed lived up to his reputation Saturday night with an 11-minute speech that left many of them sobbing.

"I mean, we were ready to die for each other out there," linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said. "And I know that's a bit dramatic, but that's the way this team is. That's what Ray has talked about."

What was the subject of Lewis' stirring pep talk? Love.

"Love put us over the top," Ayanbadejo explained. "You wouldn't think it, because football is a game known for machismo and violence and toughness, but love is what drove our success. Just like the most epic action movies end up being love stories -- The Matrix, Star Wars, Gladiator. This Ravens team is a love story."

Lewis told teammates who nearly revolted in October that he's never loved a team like this year's Ravens team.

"And he included the 2000 team (which won the Ravens' only other Super Bowl)," Ayanbadejo said. "People were crying. He was crying. It was the last time he was ever gonna stand up in front of us. So it was an intimate, special moment that we had together."

Armed with his second Super Bowl title after the team's 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Lewis is at peace with his decision to walk away from teammates after this last ride.

"The only thing that ends for me, is football," Lewis said after the game. "Life really begins for Ray Lewis now."

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Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis struggles but prevails in fitting final game

NEW ORLEANS —— Ray Lewis' Ravens held on for dear life, a seemingly certain Super Bowl victory only a few yards from slipping away.

In the end, however, Lewis got the finale he wanted to his decorated 17-year career, a world championship secured by one last defensive stand against the younger, faster San Francisco 49ers.

When it was finally over, Lewis bellowed at the sky, his arms wide open as confetti rained around him. The face of the Ravens was a Super Bowl champion for the second time and a retiree for the first.

"Baltimore!" he shouted, clutching the Lombardi Trophy.

"It's simple," Lewis said when CBS announcer Jim Nantz asked him what he made of the victory. "When God is for you, who can be against you?"

He had announced that this was his "last ride" just before the playoffs, when few gave the Ravens a chance to go all the way. In the days that followed, some teammates would say the emotional announcement was the turning point in their season.

Lewis' last game was also perhaps his strangest. The Ravens jumped to a 28-6 lead only to sacrifice almost all of it after a 33-minute power outage struck the Mercedes-Benz Superdome early in the third quarter. After the lights returned, Lewis' defense could hardly slow the 49ers.

Before all the insanity, Lewis gave Ravens fans some vintage moments.

With black triangles painted under his eyes, he gathered his teammates around him one last time, thrusting his face into theirs as he woofed pre-game inspiration. The Ravens' faithful chanted "Seven Nation Army" in the background.

Lewis panted with emotion as Alicia Keys sang the national anthem. Once the game began, he was his usual lively self, strutting and flapping his arms to the crowd every time he got in on a hit.

But there were reminders that this wasn't the Lewis of 2000. When 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took off running, the 37-year-old Lewis wasn't quick enough to close on him. And he could not cover tight end Vernon Davis, who seemed to burst open on almost every 49ers passing play, catching six passes on eight targets for 104 yards.

Dannell Ellerbe was the best Ravens linebacker on the field.

Quarterback Joe Flacco, whom Lewis had anointed "the general" earlier in the playoffs, was the clear star for Baltimore.

Ultimately the Ravens' defense made the defining stand late in the game, Lewis barking directions when it mattered most.

"The final series of Ray Lewis' career was a goal-line stand to win the Lombardi Trophy," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Ray said it on the podium: How could it be any other way than that?"

The last week of Lewis' career was just as complicated as the previous 17 years. Amid all the plaudits for his greatness came allegations in a Sports Illustrated article that he had obtained performance-enhancing drugs to aid his recovery from a torn triceps. Lewis adamantly denied using deer antler spray — laced with a banned hormone according to its maker — and said he was more agitated than angry about the controversy.

But the story gave critics new ammunition to question Lewis' self-image as a morally upright warrior.

Baltimore fans have never paid Lewis' detractors much mind. For them he'll always be the face of a pro football renaissance that began in 1996, 12 years after the Colts had broken their hearts by fleeing town.

The stats and accolades say plenty about Lewis: 17 seasons, more than any linebacker currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 13 Pro Bowl selections, Super Bowl MVP, NFL All-Decade.

But it's the images that will really abide.

Just as Baltimoreans remember Johnny Unitas, coolly cocking the ball during a fourth-quarter comeback, they will forever dream of the young No. 52, dashing from sideline to sideline to corral every ballcarrier in sight. They'll picture the hips shimmying and the chest thrusting as Lewis emerged from the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium to the beats of Nelly's "Hot in Herre." They'll recall the fire in his eyes and the music in his voice as he barked at teammates, "Any dogs in the house?"

It's a complicated legacy to be sure. Around the country, many have never gotten past the murder charges Lewis faced in connection with the fatal stabbing of two men outside an Atlanta club the night of the 2000 Super Bowl. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction-of-justice charge and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, later reaching financial settlements with the families of both victims to avoid civil trials.

Lewis stood in the eye of a media storm as he led the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2001, a year after the Atlanta incident. He wasn't asked about it nearly as much this year, though when he was, he said he lives with it every day.

Atlanta aside, other fans see Lewis as a phony because of his outspoken Christianity and showy leadership.

His hold on a football nation is undeniable, however. No other player's jersey was close to as prevalent on the streets of New Orleans in the past week. And stars from around the NFL have paid verbal homage to Lewis, not only as an on-field force but as a personal counselor on the travails of public life.

For a few moments on Sunday night, all the complexity washed away and Lewis was just a man who had given his life to football, celebrating the perfect ending.

"Daddy gets to come home now," Lewis said. "It is the most ultimate feeling ever. This is the way you do it. No other way to go out and end a career. This is how you do it."

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PHOTOS: Ray Lewis Celebrates Super Bowl Victory



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PHOTO: Ed Reed & Ray Lewis After Failed 4th Down Conversion


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Ray Lewis rides off as a champion

NEW ORLEANS -- Michael Phelps was milling around the festive, extremely cramped and steamy visitor's locker room on Sunday night, when Ray Lewis popped out of the shower.

The iconic Baltimore Ravens linebacker, clad in a towel, spotted the Olympic swimming champ and unleashed a grin so wide that it might have lit up the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during a power outrage.

"I told you I was going out on top!" Lewis told Phelps. "And somebody gave me the formula. Baltimore! Champions!"

They hugged, and Lewis grabbed Phelps behind his neck and pulled him closer. They pressed foreheads and whispered. It was a classic moment. Two outgoing champions. Two sports. One hellacious connection.

Then Lewis kissed the Baltimore native on the forehead.

"I love you to death," Lewis told him. "You gave me the formula."

Phelps -- the most decorated Olympian ever with 22 medals, including a record 18 gold medals -- wouldn't reveal the specifics of the formula that Lewis alluded to.

But he insists that this goes both ways.

"We had some talks," Phelps said. "He helped me."

On a very personal level -- and as a huge Ravens fan -- Phelps could relate to Lewis' emotion of the moment.

"Being able to watch somebody put the their mind to something and do it," Phelps said, "is one of the coolest things."

So this is how the last ride ends for Lewis, 37, after 17 mostly terrific NFL seasons.

He put his mind to it, and knowing Lewis, prayed on it.

Even so, his team nearly blew it against the San Francisco 49ers. His defense gave up 468 yards, but came through when it mattered most with a goal-line stand in the final two minutes, allowing the Ravens to hang on for a 34-31 victory.

Experience and grit prevailed over the fresh legs and a fancy, new-wave offense.

That seemed fitting in its own way, after Colin Kaepernick's rolling, fourth-and-goal throw from the 5-yard line sailed wide of Michael Crabtree in the corner of the end zone. One of the greatest players in NFL history, the signature linebacker of his era, wins the final game of his career with a goal-line stand to earn his team the Lombardi Trophy.

When the pass fell incomplete, the Ravens exhaled. The bench erupted, as players and coaches leaped for joy. Two defenders slumped to the turf. Others embraced.

But where was Lewis?

The crafty veteran that he is, Lewis went to retrieve the football.

It was like giving himself a going-away present -- compliments of teammates that included MVP quarterback Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed, and coaches that included one of the Harbaugh brothers.

While Lewis worked the locker room, that football from the play that sealed the game was in the safe and secure hands of one of Lewis' sons -- a kid no older than 10, who sat next to his dad's locker tossing and spinning the ball in the air.

This wasn't the only momento from the weekend. On Friday night, Lewis went over to the University of New Orleans for the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration.
During media sessions leading up to the game, Lewis was grilled about allegations published by SI.com that he tried to obtain deer antler spray, which contains a substance banned by the NFL's steroids policy. He denied the claims.

And he fielded questions about an old, unsolved controversy, too. Lewis was at the scene of an incident that left two men murdered following a post-Super Bowl party 13 years ago. Murder charges against Lewis were dropped, and he was pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. But after two others were acquitted, the murders were never solved.

In his moment to crown the last ride, Lewis was agitated by the controversies.

Yet he a got a much different reception from the gospel crowd at Lakefront Arena. It was about redemption. Lewis who was honored.
They gave him a Lifetime of Inspiration Award.

"Fantasia and her mother gave me the award," Lewis told USA TODAY Sports. "They sang my favorite song for me, too."

Really? What's that?

"The Sam Cooke song," he said, "A Change is Gonna Come."

So true. Lewis rides off into retirement with a championship, like Michael Strahan, Jerome Bettis and John Elway.

It wasn't a classic performance, when considering all the career highlights that a player who was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year supplied over the years. Lewis had seven tackles, but none of the game-changing variety, and at one point he seemed frustrated when he shoved Vernon Davis after a tackle. Maybe the most noticeable plays that he was involved in came on a couple of missed tackles, including a case early in the game when Michael Crabtree stutter-stepped on a crossing route over the middle, then broke Lewis' tackle and wound up with a 19-yard gain.

But Lewis had plenty of help. In one instance, after pulling guard Mike Iupati pile-drove Lewis to create a lane for Kaepernick, Reed and Cary Williams came over and pushed Iupati off Lewis in a classic got-your-back display.

That's fair enough. Lewis covered the backs of his defense for years. He was the rock. It really doesn't matter now, that Lewis wasn't the designated driver for his last ride.

He won. He had a perfect ending. A month ago, when Lewis announced his intent to retire, it seemed improbable that Lewis' last ride would last this long. Then the Ravens beat Denver in double-overtime, aided by Flacco's miracle 70-yard TD throw to Jacoby Jones at the end of regulation, and got sweet revenge at New England.

The stars were surely aligned. Lewis had Flacco on his team, and Jonathan Ogden was voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in New Orleans. Ogden and Lewis came in as the original Ravens draft class in 1996 and were rookie roommates.

"It's the journey, man," Lewis said.


"My best play?" Lewis said, repeating a question. "When the confetti dropped."

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Owner of supplements company publicly apologizes to Ray Lewis

NEW ORLEANS -- The owner of a company that manufactures deer-antler spray and says it helps athletes recover more quickly from injuries issued an apology Friday to the Ravens and linebacker Ray Lewis.

A Sports Illustrated story published this week implied that Mitch Ross, who owns a company called S.W.A.T.S. (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids), provided the spray to Lewis to promote healing of his triceps injury. The spray contains a substance called IGF-1, which is banned under the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

Lewis, who was out from the middle of October until the start of the playoffs with the injury, vigorously denied ever using the spray and said he never has failed an NFL test for PEDs.

"I never saw Ray put [the spray] in his mouth," Ross said in an impromptu news briefing outside the Super Bowl XLVII media center. "I want to apologize to any athletes that this story hurt."

Ross said he met Lewis in 2008 through former Ravens assistant coach Hue Jackson. He also said he gave Jackson what he called "chips," a new technology that he said improves athletes' performance. The "chips" are not ingested and are not in violation of the league's PED policy.

"Ray Lewis is a great man," Ross said. "Hue Jackson is a hero for starting to work with me in 2008. I'm here to tell you that natural IGF-1 rebuilds brain tissue. I did not walk in the Ravens' door with deer spray. I walked in with chips."

Ross said his client list included Giants punter Steve Weatherford, but Weatherford denied any connection to Ross.

"I've never met the guy in my life," Weatherford said in an interview with Newsday. "I've never spoken to him. He's just out to peddle his snake oil."
Weatherford said he has contacted an attorney.

"For eight years, I've never put anything that's banned into my body," he said. "Some guy comes along and says something like this. It's just wrong."

Ross said another of his clients was Ravens safety James Ihedigbo, the one-time Jets special-teams ace. The team had no comment on Ihedigbo.

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PHOTOS: The Cleats Ray Lewis Will Wear in Super Bowl XLVII


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PHOTO: proCane Ravens Ray Lewis, Ed Reed & Bryant McKinnie At Their Last SB XLVII Practice

Bryant McKinnie posted this photo of himself and fellow proCanes Ray Lewis and Ed Reed at their last practice before Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Reed and Lewis are not wearing their usual number 20 and number 52 respectively because the Ravens on their Friday practices usually have defensive players exchange jerseys.


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Football factory: The U's astounding presence in Super Bowl XLVII

NEW ORLEANS – Six-foot-eight-inch Bryant McKinnie, towering above everyone else in the Superdome, smiled and shared a joke about his old college team.

"We used to say if one of us didn't get to the Super Bowl," the former Miami Hurricane and current Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman said Tuesday, "we'd all take a pay cut and play for the Dolphins."

No need for that plan now. McKinnie and his Ravens teammate Ed Reed, another former 'Cane, will both play in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. So will Frank Gore, for the San Francisco 49ers. They were all on the same 2001 Miami Hurricanes roster that many consider the best collection of college talent of all time. And they are all stars.

In a league where the average career lasts four years, these three former college teammates continue to dominate more than a decade later.

And they're hardly alone.

That '01 Hurricanes team, which went undefeated and routed Nebraska in the BCS Championship Game, produced NFL players at just about every position. That Miami roster produced 17 first-round draft picks and 38 players were drafted into the NFL. Andre Johnson was on that roster. So was Vince Wilfork. So was D.J. Williams. So was Jonathan Vilma. So was Antrelle Rolle. So were Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis, who were both ahead of Gore on the depth chart. So was Sean Taylor, who was Reed's backup and made the Pro Bowl twice before being tragically killed in a home invasion. And so was 2012 Pro Bowler Chris Myers, who didn't start at Miami but logged significant playing time as a backup because, in his matter-of-fact words, "We were blowing teams out by 40 points." (That team's average margin of victory was actually 32.9 points.)

"Every now and then you get to coach a great one," says Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, who helped recruit that Miami team and coached Reed before leaving for Rutgers in 2000. "That team was littered with great ones. I don't know that there will ever be a team assembled with all that talent again."

The heft of the credit for the millennium Hurricanes' success goes to Butch Davis, the head coach who assembled all that talent in one place before bolting to the NFL. "Butch Davis was an incredible, incredible evaluator of talent," says then-assistant Curtis Johnson, who is now at Tulane. Davis' legacy is mixed because of a two-pronged NCAA investigation at North Carolina that resulted in his firing, but in 10 years as a college head coach, he recruited dozens of future NFL players and more than 30 first-round draft picks. Most came at Miami.

"We were looking for athletic, speed guys who loved football," explains Schiano. That was a directive from Davis, who got his start coaching multiple sports and always looked for players who could excel at basketball, track, wrestling, whatever. "When you coach a lot of different sports," Davis says, "you start to appreciate a lot of skills and how they work together." He would assemble his staff in a film room, look at high school games, and wait for preps to "jump off the screen."

The recruiting ground in South Florida was fertile, but a lot of the stars on that 2001 roster came from elsewhere. Reed arrived from Louisiana. McKinnie came from New Jersey. Jeremy Shockey grew up in Oklahoma. Davis didn't much care for five-star guys as much as he wanted those three ingredients: athleticism, speed and love of football. For every Andre Johnson, who probably could have played in the NFL as a college freshman, there was an undersized talent nobody else saw. "Roscoe Parrish was a midget," says Curtis Johnson. (For the record, Parrish is 5-9.)

The "loved football" part was perhaps most important. Gore was a great example, as he came to Miami despite having to wait behind Portis and McGahee. Asked at Super Bowl media day Tuesday why he didn't shy away from that, Gore said, "Competition. If you want to be the best, you have to play with the best. I wasn't scared of competition."

Gore carried a football around campus in those days, held high and tight, because he knew his day would come. "He could care less about anything but school and football," says Mike Rumph, one of those 17 first-round picks. "Most guys are chasing girls, thinking about stuff at home. Not him. First day out to practice, most guys have special sleeves or new shoes. He's out there with no gloves. Just a jersey, shorts, and helmet. He was like Mike Tyson."

There were several players on the team with that mentality. "We had tackling going on in walk-throughs," says Curtis Johnson, and that was on purpose. Davis wanted practices to be more difficult than games, even if it meant grueling workouts and ferocious drills.

"The toughest battle was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," says Schiano. "That's the thing I remember – the competition." Asked if it was as intense as the NFL, Schiano said: "In some ways even more so. At the U of Miami, we were trying to bring the program back. There was such a hunger there. That's one of the reasons they practiced so hard against each other."

Schiano remembers being disturbed in his office one spring by "a loud noise" and looking out the window to see a rowdy 7-on-7 game that included Michael Irvin, who had retired from football, and Sinorice Moss (Santana's younger brother), who was 15 at the time. Irvin, Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp had long since left campus, yet there was an unspoken expectation that the bar needed to be raised every single year. There's even a book written about the building and sustaining of the Miami program: Cane Mutiny.

"The level of work ethic was established," says Myers. "We wanted to keep that going. You wanted to prove to yourself you could keep doing what was done before."

Former players credit not only the strength coaches, but also the fact that the facilities weren't all that great. Today, major schools have professional-grade equipment. At that time, Miami had something resembling a boxing gym. That only seemed to motivate players more.

"It was the work ethic," Reed said Tuesday. "With the people we had, we tended to get the best guys."

It all culminated with a one-loss season in 2000, an undefeated season in 2001 and another one-loss season in 2002. But the 2001 team was especially dominant. The final score for that entire year, with point totals from all games added up, was Miami 512, Opponents 117.

"I really felt like we could have beaten the Cincinnati Bengals that year," says Rumph, who played five seasons in the NFL and now coaches at American Heritage High in Boca Raton. "It wouldn't be a blowout game!"

The most remarkable aspect of that team is only now coming into view. Nearly 12 years later, Gore is maybe the most dangerous player on the 49ers roster. The same could be said about Johnson in Houston, and Wilfork is a rare stalwart on a constantly rotating Patriots defense.

Yet when forced to pick a player or two from that '01 squad, two names come up: McKinnie and Reed.

Former 'Canes love to talk about the much-hyped matchup that season between "Mt. McKinnie" and defensive end Dwight Freeney, who starred at Syracuse and is building himself a Hall of Fame career with Indianapolis.

"Bryant is the best lazy player I've ever seen in my life," Rumph says. "He don't like to work out, his back is bothering him, that kind of thing. But even on his laziest day, he would not give up a sack. Dwight Freeney came to town, and Bryant literally rolled him down the field."

Miami beat No. 14 Syracuse that November day, 59-0.

While McKinnie is revered for his strength, Reed is awed for his smarts. The signature play from that championship season came when Miami struggled with Boston College into the fourth quarter and defensive lineman Matt Walters intercepted a pass deep in Miami territory. Reed raced up on his 270-pound teammate, ripped the ball out of his hands and ran 80 yards to the end zone. He was such a ball hawk that he forced his own teammate to fumble. "He had ball skills like an elite receiver and footwork like a top DB," Rumph says. "He was a coach on the field."

Davis, the architect of all this, admits he looks back at his Miami days wistfully. "In retrospect, obviously I would have loved to stay for eight, 10, 12, 15 years and maybe still be there," Davis says. "It was ridiculous how much success we had."

And it wasn't just on the field. Chuck Pagano was a secondary coach who left in 2000. Rob Chudzinski was an offensive coordinator. Schiano was defensive coordinator until the 2000 season. All three are now NFL head coaches.

In the college ranks, head coach Larry Coker is now the top guy at Texas San-Antonio. Mario Cristobal became a head coach at Florida International. Randy Shannon was in charge at Miami for a time. Curtis Johnson is now head coach at Tulane. Mark Stoops is head coach at Kentucky.

And Ken Dorsey, the quarterback on that unbeaten team, is now the quarterbacks coach for the Carolina Panthers.

Ironically, Davis has never reached that level of success again as a head coach. He struggled with the Cleveland Browns before leaving for North Carolina, which is now mired in scandal. Davis never won a national title as a head coach, but hopes to get one more shot. He's now an assistant with Schiano's Bucs.

Other lingering aspects of the Miami juggernaut are more subtle. Every time Myers gets ready to take the field for the Texans, he listens to the same song before he runs out into the din of the stadium: "In The Air Tonight," by Phil Collins. That was the song hand-picked by Davis to signal the entrance of the Hurricanes onto the field at the old Orange Bowl. He picked it to set a tempo and tone, but also to time a pregame stretch.

"The drum roll signified time to break down and go to the next phase of pregame," Davis says. "The tempo and mindset was now in place." Myers is not alone in his ritual. "Everybody still listens to that song before games," Myers says. "It brings me back to a little bit of Miami."

There is a little bit of Miami all over the NFL. In fact, there is a lot. And some of it will be on display in New Orleans on Sunday.

In fact, it's hard not to wonder how good those Hurricanes would have been if they could have experienced McKinnie's joke about playing together in the NFL: Gore, Portis and McGahee in the backfield, Johnson at wideout, Shockey at tight end, McKinnie blocking, Wilfork rushing, Williams at linebacker, Reed, Rolle and the late Taylor in the defensive backfield. And all those coaches.

Asked how good that team would have been in the NFL, Tulane's Johnson lets out a howling laugh before giving a one-word answer:


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Ravens “got goosebumps” when Ray Lewis announced Last Ride

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced on January 2 that this year’s postseason run would be his “last ride” in the NFL. Lewis isn’t the incredibly high-impact football player he once was, but there are stats that suggest his on-field presence is as valuable as ever.

Over Lewis’ last 16 games, the Ravens are 12-4 with four playoff victories. Without Lewis in the lineup for ten games this season, Baltimore went 5-5.

In an interview with WFAN in New York, via SportsRadioInterviews.com, Ravens safety James Ihedigbo attempted to explain the impact Lewis has from an intangible standpoint. Leadership is not quantifiable, but Lewis still impacts the outcome of games in spite of declining ability.

“He’s our leader, he’s our general, and when he spoke to the team guys truly got goosebumps,” Ihedigbo described. “There was a change in that locker room, there was a change when we had that conversation.

“And I’m not going to get into the depth of what was said, but from that point on it lit a different type of fire under us.”

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Hue Jackson apologizes to Ray Lewis and entire Ravens organization for introducing them to S.W.A.T.S owner

Ray Lewis has said he never took the supplements offered by Sports With Alternatives to Steroids, but it's hard to deny he didn't know the co-owner of the controversial supplement company after Hue Jackson has apologized for introducing Lewis and other Baltimore Ravens to him.

In a phone interview with the Baltimore Sun, former Ravens assistant Jackson said he was sorry for the distraction the controversy has caused. He told the paper he met S.W.A.T.S. co-owner Mitch Ross at the 2008 scouting combine. Yahoo! Sports online magazine ThePostGame.com reported in 2011 that the NFL told Jackson, then the Raiders coach, to cut ties with the company because it produced a deer-antler extract spray that contained the banned substance IGF-1. Ross said he gave supplements to Lewis after the linebacker tore his triceps in October.
"First of all, I'm disappointed for the Ravens," Jackson told The Sun in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "You hate to ever put an organization in that kind of situation. I never knew the young man [Ross] could be that way. I apologize for the whole organization. It should be about the Super Bowl."

Lewis has denied taking supplements from S.W.A.T.S. As Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel wrote, Lewis said he "never ever took what he said," and called Ross "a coward."

Jackson, who is now on the Cincinnati Bengals' staff, told the Sun he believes Lewis is clean and has never used banned substances.

"Ray is one of the greatest football players to ever play the game," Jackson said, according to the Sun. "This kind of thing should never happen to him. He doesn't deserve it. It's not fair. This is not about talking about a relationship that he met a guy a few years back. It should be about him trying to win the most important game of all this season. Ray means the world to me. Ray has spoken his peace and I stand behind him 100 percent."

After Sports Illustrated brought the issue to light early this week, Ross has continued to stick by his story and defend his company, saying he did set Lewis up with a recovery program but Lewis didn't do anything wrong.

“It's a shame that Ray is denying taking it," Ross told the Sun. "The NFL is uneducated. This is not a steroid. It’s not illegal. Ray is not a cheater. He did it the right way. Ray is a good man. He did the work. He rehabbed his arm and did the workouts. This isn’t a shortcut. It’s just natural science.”

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Ray Lewis addresses recent allegations: 'It's a joke'

Ray Lewis had his Super Bowl media availability Wednesday morning, and the first question was about the allegations that he attempted to obtain a banned substance, as reported by Sports Illustrated. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker vehemently denied the report for the second consecutive day.

"Honestly, and I'm going to say it very clearly again, I think it's one of the most embarrassing things we can do on this type of stage," Lewis said. "You give somebody the ability to come into our world, our world is a very secret society and we try to protect our world as much as we can. When you let cowards come in and do things like that, to try to disturb something ... the reason why I'm smiling is because it's so funny of a story because I've never, ever took what he says or whatever I was supposed to do.

"It's just sad, once again, that someone could have so much attention on a stage this big, where the dreams are really real. I don't need it. My teammates don't need it. The (San Francisco) 49ers don't need it. Nobody needs it because it really just shows you how people really plan things and try to attack people from the outside. It's just foolish, very foolish. The guy has no credibility. He's been sued four or five times over the same B.S."

Mitch Ross, owner of S.W.A.T.S., told Sports Illustrated that Lewis requested deer antler spray and other remedies to quickly return from a torn right triceps. The spray contains the banned substance IGF-1 -- a natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth and plays an important role in childhood growth and development. Ross claims it's not a steroid.

A reporter asked Lewis if he's angry about dealing with the backlash of this story.

"Never angry," Lewis said. "I'm too blessed to be stressed. ... You can use the word agitated."

Is it a distraction?

"It's not. It's a joke, if you know me," Lewis said with a grin. "I tell them (my teammates) all the time, 'Don't let people from the outside ever come and try to disturb what's inside.'

"That's the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That's what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you're trying to do."

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Amani Toomer: Ray Lewis setting wrong tone for Ravens

What we're hearing in New Orleans ...

… a dissenting voice on the Ray Lewis retirement tour.

It's former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, who lost to Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV and watched former teammate Tiki Barber take over the spotlight when he announced his retirement midway through the 2006 season.

"It's definitely all about him. Once a guy goes to the center of the field, goes into the victory formation on the last play of his last home game …" Toomer told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday in the Super Bowl XLVII Media Center, trailing off before completing that thought. " I just don't think the Giants or any organization I've ever been a part of, even growing up, would allow somebody to single themselves out like that.

"If you single yourself out after you make a play, that's one thing. But to walk out on the field reminds me of the WWE, like The Rock coming out. You're becoming a caricature of yourself. It's exhausting. I don't know why somebody would want that."

Lewis said Wednesday he had an "obligation" to his teammates and the city of Baltimore to "give everybody a fair chance to say their goodbyes."

Toomer said he "loves" Lewis as a player and called him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He also realizes Lewis' retirement has served as a motivating factor for the Ravens. In fact, that's what they told Toomer, now working for NBC Sports Radio Network, during Media Day when he asked the players how Lewis' retirement affected them.

But Toomer still doesn't believe Lewis should make it all about himself and noted Lewis' pleading guilty to obstruction of justice as part of a plea agreement in regard to the double murders in Atlanta in 2000.

"If you want to say you're Mr. Religious and all of that, have a clean record. Don't say all of that stuff if you know there's stuff that might come back," Toomer said. "Those are the things that, when I look at him, I just think hypocrisy."

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Ray Lewis emphatically denies alleged PED use

A defiant Ray Lewis again denied using any banned substances and went on the offensive against the man who says that he provided the Ravens linebacker with products to accelerate his return from a torn triceps injury.

Lewis called Mitch Ross — a co-owner of Sports With Alternatives to Steroids who claims that his relationship with the long-time Raven dates back to 2008 — a coward and attacked his credibility. He also described the attention being paid to the situation four days before the Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII “sad” and “embarrassing.”

“The reason why I’m smiling is because it’s so funny of a story because I’ve never, ever took what he says I am supposed to do,” Lewis said at a news conference at the team’s downtown hotel. “It’s just sad once again that someone can have this much attention on a stage this big where dreams are really real. I don’t need it, my teammates don’t need it, the 49ers don’t need it. Nobody needs it because it just really shows you how people really plan things and try to attack people from the outside. It’s just foolish. It’s very foolish. The guy has no credibility. He’s been sued four or five times over the same BS. Just to entertain it, I can’t, I won’t.”

Lewis’ comments reiterated what he said at media day Tuesday when a Sports Illustrated report surfaced that Ross supplied the linebacker with different products after his injury, which occurred Oct. 14. One of the products was a deer antler velvet spray, which the magazine reported contains IGF-1, a substance that is banned by the NFL. Johns Hopkins professor Dr. Roberto Salvatori, however, told The Sun that even if Lewis did use deer antler velvet spray, his body would not have absorbed IGF-1.

Ross confirmed the details Tuesday in an interview with The Sun, and said that he met Lewis through his relationship with former Ravens assistant Hue Jackson.

Lewis, however, has declined to even mention Ross by name. Retiring after the Super Bowl, Lewis acknowledged that he was “agitated” though not angry that this has become a big storyline this week, but vowed to not let it become a distraction for his teammates.

“It’s a joke if you know me,” Lewis said. “I tell them all the time and this is what I try to teach them: ‘Don’t let people from the outside ever come and try to disturb what’s inside.’ That’s the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract people from everything you are trying to do. There’s no man that’s ever trained as hard as our team has trained. There’s no man that’s went through what we’ve went through.

“To give somebody credit that doesn’t deserve it, that would be a slap in the face to everything that we’ve went through. I’ve been in this game for 17-plus good years and I’ve had a heck of a relationship and too much respect for the business and my body to ever violate it like that. So to entertain foolishness like that from cowards who come from the outside and try to destroy what we’ve built, like I said, it’s sad to even entertain it on this type of stage.”

Lewis met with team officials after the story come out and told them that it was untrue. They advised him to issue a strong denial.

“I understand that it’s something that he’s never, ever been involved with,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “I think it’s kind of too bad that someone was given an opportunity to get some free publicity out there, undeserved and unearned, really for no reason. … Ray is honest. Ray is straightforward. He’s told us in the past, he’s told us now that he’s never taken any of that stuff ever and I believe Ray and I trust Ray completely. We have a relationship. I know this man. I know what he’s all about. It’s just too bad it has to be something that gets so much play.”

Kevin Byrne, the Ravens’ senior vice president for public and community relations, said, “Sports Illustrated, that guy, that company, they won. They picked the NFL’s media day. They got the whole world talking. They won. That’s a shame.”

Meanwhile, several of Lewis’ long-time teammates came to his support. They also vowed that Lewis’ issues wouldn’t become a distraction as they ramp up preparations for Sunday’s game against the 49ers. The Ravens had their first practice of Super Bowl week Wednesday.

“Do we seem distracted? Come on man. We can handle a lot,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “This team has very broad shoulders. We don’t let too many things bother us. We’re just really good at not paying attention to nonsense. We’re not distracted at all. … Until you show some factual evidence, we don’t really care about it, man. We’re at the Super Bowl. We know what you all are trying to do. We’re just not getting into it. We’re shrugging it off. It’s all feathers in the wind. It’s petty gossip for the simple fact that we saw how hard he worked. He did it at the facility and at no time was he injected with anything.”

Lewis had surgery Oct. 17. At the time, it was believed that he’d be out for the rest of the season. However, Lewis convinced general manager Ozzie Newsome to put him on injured reserve with a designation to return, vowing to play again at some point this season. Less than three months later, Lewis returned in time to face the Indianapolis Colts in the Ravens’ Jan.6 playoff opener. He’s made 44 tackles in three playoff games.

Safety Ed Reed has been a teammate of Lewis’ for 11 years and the two former Miami standouts used to train together. He said that he didn’t know who Ross is and noted that “I don’t associate with people like that” anyway.

“I always talk about Ray's work ethic, what he's achieved and what he did to get to this point,” Reed said. “I know what he goes through physically, what he puts his body through to work out. The naysayers are going to be there. C’mon, the man is out there with a brace on.”

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Michael Irvin salutes Ray Lewis as 'one of the greats'

The staying power of retiring Ravens star inside linebacker Ray Lewis resonates strongly with former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, a fellow Miami football standout.

For Irvin, watching the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year excel for 17 seasons has separated him from the pack of NFL defenders.

Since returning from a torn right triceps, Lewis is the leading tackler in the playoffs with 44 stops. The Ravens have earned victories over the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts to make it to the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Now Lewis is preparing for his final football game Sunday night with the AFC champions.

"When we look at Ray's tenure, one place this long, wow, this is incredible," Irvin, an NFL Network analyst, told The Baltimore Sun. "And he's still going, leading all tacklers in the playoffs. That's really still going. It speaks so much of a game we call physical.

"It's a physical game. And there's the importance of leadership and emotions in the game, and that's where Ray has been a huge example. I consider Ray to be one of the greats, if not the greatest to ever play the game."

Unprompted, Irvin, who overcame off-field issues to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, brought up Lewis' troubled past.

Lewis, 37, was accused of double murder in Atlanta following the 2000 Super Bowl in an incident outside a Buckhead nightclub, but the charges were later dropped and he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Since that incident, Lewis has significantly repaired his image and avoided trouble with the law.

"For what Ray has been through, honestly, I'm a spiritual man with an understanding of ministry," Irvin said. "Ray is using his life experiences to impact the lives of others. Ray had a horrific situation, a horrific situation where lives were lost, but Ray took that horrific mess and turned it into greatness. What I mean by that is Ray went through something to make sure nobody else from Baltimore had to ever go through anything like that ever again.

"We don't talk about this, but I don't hear problems coming out of Baltimore because Ray used his situation to give everybody an understanding. He's one of the greatest to ever play this game, on and off the field. People point back to the situation he was in and that's fine. But when you talk about the downs he got to, also talk about the highs. He's been incredible."

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The cold truth Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis can't completely escape

NEW ORLEANS — On a glittery stage in a giant football arena, a smiling Ray Lewis is speaking to dozens of journalists about playing this Super Bowl for a higher power.

"Rings fade, they tarnish, but the relationship I have with Him will never die," he says. "My ultimate goal is to leave a great name, so that one day when those skies finally spread, I'll hear those famous words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' "

At the same time Tuesday, at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Akron, Ohio, a somber Greg Wilson visits Jacinth Baker's grave. He says he has done this three times a week for the last 13 years. He trims the grass, waters the flowers, and prays over the remains of a nephew who was one of two men stabbed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub in unsolved murders linked to the Super Bowl preacher.

"Ray Lewis is so cold-hearted, I can't believe he's so cold-hearted," Wilson says in a phone interview later in the day. "I pray that when he and his friends close their eyes, they keep seeing that murder over and over. I hope it beats them up until the day they die. Then once they die, they are going to burn in hell."

This is supposed to be the week that the NFL and its marketing partners, through the narrative of the final game of a future Hall of Fame linebacker, trumpet the power of forgiveness and redemption. This is, instead, a week that reminds us such gifts cannot be conjured or purchased, but must be earned.

The cameras on Sunday's Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will spend much time focusing on the Ravens' Lewis, whose 17-year career will end with him dancing, praying, kissing the turf and hugging everyone in sight, football's great role model completing an astonishing image rehabilitation 13 years after being charged with a double murder.

"There's no greater feeling than to be sitting here right now . . . a surreal feeling," Lewis says from his Superdome perch at media day.

The cameras will not be in the family room of Greg Wilson, whose nephew Baker, along with Richard Lollar, were stabbed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub on Jan. 31, 2000, an incident for which Lewis would plead guilty to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor.

"If I see Ray Lewis on TV, I just keep flipping to something better," Wilson says. "I don't want to see him. I don't want to see other people glorifying him. He and his friends took something away from my family."

Lewis' jersey has been the NFL's hottest seller. His recent pregame hug from Commissioner Roger Goodell has been one of the NFL's hottest images. He's become a tear-stained inspirational guru whose journey has grown to such mythical proportions he is even referring to it as if he were a helmeted John Wayne, calling it "my last ride."

"To go out with that confetti coming from the top of this building, to hear those famous words that 'The Ravens are Super Bowl champs,' there's no greater legacy," Lewis says. "When I leave this building tomorrow, I leave this building on my own terms."

Wilson, a mechanic who helped raise his nephew, wonders why Lewis is allowed to define those terms after being involved in a murder case that still contains much ambiguity.

Baker, 21, and Lollar, 24, were stabbed after being involved in an early-morning brawl with Lewis and two companions. Baker's blood was found in Lewis' limousine. Witnesses said Lewis threw a punch and coached his group to be quiet. Murder charges were filed against Lewis and the companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.

The case then fell apart. Witnesses changed their stories. Lewis agreed to the obstruction charge in exchange for testifying against Oakley and Sweeting, but his testimony wasn't enough and they were acquitted.

While Lewis reached a financial settlement with both families to avoid a civil trial, the criminal case remains unsolved. Wilson believes Lewis could solve it if only he were the person he claims to be. "He says he's a changed man, but he hides behind that Bible," Wilson says. "If he was really true to the Bible, he would tell the truth."

For Lewis, his truth has vastly changed in the last 13 years. One year after the murder, he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship, but his public image was so tattered that his photo was not put on a Wheaties box with teammates and Disney World wouldn't pay him to shout its name. Since then, he has been a model citizen, community leader and endorser of national products while softening his steely stare enough to become a media favorite.

During his hourlong media day interview session Tuesday, he is asked about the murders only once.

"What you want to report about, honestly, this is not the appropriate time for that," he replies. "The sympathy I have for that family, what me and my family have endured because of all of that . . . nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions. I just truly feel this is God's time."

He adds, "I live with that every day. You can take a break from it. I don't. I live with it every day of my life. I'd rather not speak about that today."

Wilson is read those quotes over the phone. He pauses, then slowly addresses them, his voice rising in anger and pain.

"He might live with it a few minutes of the day; we live with it 24 hours a day," Wilson says. "We go to bed thinking about it, we wake up thinking about it. We look at Jacinth's pictures, we look at videos of Jacinth, we look at his artwork. Maybe Ray Lewis needs to dig deeper in that Bible."

Lewis dug deeper — with his heels — Tuesday when confronted with a Sports Illustrated report that he was given a banned substance contained in deer antler spray while he was recovering from a torn triceps this season.

"I've been I this business 17 years. Nobody has ever got up with me every morning and trained with me," says Lewis, who has never tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. "Every test I've taken in the NFL, there's never been a question if I've ever even thought about using anything. So to even entertain stupidity like that, tell them to try go get a story off on somebody else."

Up in Akron, Greg Wilson hears all the answers and sighs.

"Karma is a beast," he says. "It's gonna come around and tear some people up."

Back at the Superdome, with adoring teammates waiting and fans cheering, a still-smiling Lewis is escorted from the media day stage, the last ride lurching its way into a mottled sunset.

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Ray Lewis forgives Welker's wife

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Monday he has forgiven the wife of Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker for recent comments she made via Facebook.

Anna Burns Welker posted a message to her Facebook page following the Ravens' win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, saying, "Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay! What a hall of fame player! A true role model!"

She deleted the comments shortly thereafter and then released a statement the following day apologizing for her remarks.

Lewis, addressing the media upon his team's arrival to New Orleans, where the Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII, was asked about Burns Welker's comments.

"I've always been a firm believer of the Good Book, and the Good Book always confirms, even a fool is counted wise until he opens he or she mouth," he told reporters. "And sometimes people just say silly stuff. And they say it out of emotion. And sometimes you need to let the game take care of the game. We lost up there last year, and I didn't hear one teammate say anything about nobody there because we have respect for that team, that they won it fair and square.

"So for her to come out and say what she said, listen, I truly forgive her, and I have no hard feelings against her at all, but I believe people just make mistakes and say foolish things sometimes."

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Warren Sapp can't believe people still talk about Ray Lewis' murder charges

Warren Sapp doesn't have much use for rehashing old stories that don't involve the time he played in a Super Bowl or was so-and-so's teammate at The U.

The NFL Network analyst dropped his microphone in exaggerated disgust during Tuesday's media day coverage when Rich Eisen had the audacity to mention that Ray Lewis once faced murder charges. (You may have heard that story before.)

Sapp seemed stunned that Eisen would dredge up a story that's been dredged up by almost every major media outlet over the past 10 days. Surely there's a statute of limitations on this, right?

I mean, the Harbaughs have been brothers for 49 years. GET A NEW STORY, Y'ALL!

Here's the transcript of the exchange:

EISEN: Moments ago, Ray Lewis was also asked about the two murders that took place in Atlanta. [Sapp drops his microphone in exaggerated disgust.] That can't surprise you, Warren.

SAPP: Twelve years after the fact?

EISEN: Well, I mean, everybody's talking about that right now because Ray is back at the Super Bowl.

SAPP: Once you've been tried and the trial is over? Come on.

EISEN: He was convicted of a charge of obstruction of justice back in the day and originally charged with two murders. That's a case that still has not been solved.

Sapp testified as a character witness for his former Miami teammate. "He wouldn't hurt a flea," he said on the NFLN set while giving exasperated stares to people off-camera. "He'd dance you to death."

It's been 13 years since the charges, but whatever. Sapp made that mistake an hour ago. It's now in the past and there's no need to ever bring it up again.

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Ray Lewis' first NFL sack was on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

NEW ORLEANS -- Seventeen years ago, Ravens star inside linebacker Ray Lewis was an exuberant rookie competing against Indianapolis Colts veteran quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

Rushing on an inside blitz, Lewis decked Harbaugh for the first sack of his NFL career in the Ravens' inaugural season.

"Absolutely, I remember it," said Lewis, who has 41 1/2 sacks for his career. "How could I forget it? It is one of those things that when you are playing the game when you first come in as a rookie, you are just running around. And I was just running around making plays. When I sacked him, I remember getting up and doing this dance with my shoulders, and shaking my shoulders, or whatever. And later, I became teammates with him as well. Been a long time, but the ride, I would never complain about one moment of it.”

The Colts got the victory that day, a 26-21 win despite Harbaugh being sacked four times.

Flash forward and Lewis is still racking up tackles for the Ravens as the AFC champions have reached Super Bowl XLVII.

This marks Lewis' final game before retirement. And ultra-competitive as ever, Jim Harbaugh is coaching the 49ers

"My legend grows," Jim Harbaugh quipped recently when his father, Jack, reminded him of being sacked by the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "Ray Lewis' first sack."

Lewis and Harbaugh, once known as "Captain Comeback," were later teammates in Baltimore.

“I think he was exactly how he is as a coach," Lewis said. "He is kind of straightforward. He is a hard worker. He understands what he wants to get done. And when he comes in to get it done, he is going to do everything he has in his power to get it done. He is a very passionate person, but he always has purpose in what he is doing. That is what I remember most about Jim.”

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Ray Lewis denies using banned deer antler spray

NEW ORLEANS — Ray Lewis returned to Super Bowl media day with another controversy: allegations of cheating.

According to Sports Illustrated, the iconic Baltimore Ravens linebacker tried to obtain deer-antler velvet extract in an attempt to speed the healing for a torn triceps that sidelined him for more than half the season.

Lewis approached the makers of the deer-antler velvet extract — Sports with Alternative to Steroids — the company's owner Mitch Ross told SI. Deer-antler spray contains IGF-1, which is on the NFL's list of banned substances. Using the spray would be a violation of the NFL's steroids policy.

During a podium session packed with news media, Lewis dismissed the story.

"Two years ago, that was the same report," he said. "It's not worthy of the press."

When asked directly whether he had used the spray during his recovery this season, Lewis said, "Nah, never."

The last time Lewis was at a Super Bowl, questions swirled about his involvement in the murders of two men after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in 2000. Murder charges were dropped against Lewis, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Interest in the case has been renewed in recent weeks as Lewis announced his intent to retire after Super Bowl XLVII and family members of the victims have spoken out about whether he revealed everything that he knew about the murders.

Before the SI story, it was expected that Lewis would be asked to revisit the murder case. Instead, Lewis was pressed to address the fresh controversy.
Asked a second time if he could respond to the report, Lewis said, "Not really. Why would I give that any press."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he isn't concerned about the story or its implications, noting that Lewis has never failed a drug test.

"Ray has passed every test for substance abuse that he's taken throughout his entire career," Harbaugh said.

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Ray Lewis says his career is almost complete

Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis met the media for the first of several times this week and he said his "hunger" to win another Super Bowl is "probably off the charts."

"I was 25 when I won my first Super Bowl. To be 37 and back here and have a chance to win another one in my last year, there’s no greater hunger that I have," Lewis said. "I’m going to give my teammates everything I have and not just on Sunday. Starting today, I’m not going nowhere. I’m sitting in my room and I’m studying and studying and studying. I owe them something as a leader and that is to have myself totally prepared. My hunger is probably off the charts right now.”

Lewis said that when the Ravens were in the Super Bowl in the 2000 season, he followed veterans like Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson. Now, he said teammates are approaching him to ask him questions about how to handle the week.

"All week I’ve heard guys talking like, ‘Man, I can’t believe we’re here. We made it, we made it.’ Today, I think it actually confirmed for a lot of people that it’s really real," Lewis said. "Now, you have to really realize that there’s only two teams left. There’s no next week. Whoever wins this game will feel that confetti drop. It’s one of the most ultimate feelings I’ve ever felt in my life and I would love to really experience that with these guys."

Lewis spoke of how special it is that all his family members, including his father who he's had a very complicated relationship with in the past, are planning to be in New Orleans this week. Lewis said that the one exception is his grandmother who he said is not doing good.

“Everything is complete now," he said. "My entire family will be here actually watching this game outside my grandmother who is very ill. Any time you can finish your career with your whole family by your side, I think that’s the way you always should do it.”

Lewis also was asked a couple of questions about his past, including one about his reaction to Facebook comments made by the wife of New England Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker following the Ravens 28-13 victory in the AFC championship game.

Anna Burns Welker questioned why Lewis is looked at as a role model.

"I don’t really get into that. Listen, I’ve always been a firm believer of the good book and the good book always confirms, even a fool is counted wise until he opens he or she mouth. Sometimes people just say silly stuff and they say it out of emotion," he said. "Sometimes, you need to let the game take care of the game. We lost last year up there and I didn’t hear one teammate say anything about anybody there because we have respect for that team, that they won it fair and square. For her to come out and say what she said, look, I truly forgive her. I don’t have no hard feelings against her at all but I believe that people just make mistakes and say stupid things at times.”

Asked why he feels the public has forgiven him after his legal problems in Atlanta earlier in his career, Lewis said, “Honestly, I don’t know nobody that has ever lived a perfect life. I have saw people that went through things before and realistically, most of the time what happens, when somebody goes through adversity, you really find out what their true character is. I think for me, people really now have taken time to find out who I am. They are really learning what my character is. My characcter is simply to make this world a better place, to encourage people that no matter what you’re going through, it ain’t really what you’re going through, it’s your mindset when you’re going through it. SO when you see all the support that I’m getting right now, I’m in total awe of the respect that some people have of someone who has been through adversity but found his way out and really just shown what my true character is and who I am as a person.”

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VIDEO: SNL skit that made fun of Ray Lewis crying literally made him cry

The most recent edition of Saturday Night Live featured a squirrel-dancing Kenan Thompson at the Weekend Update desk with Seth Meyers.  Thompson, with painted face and purple No. 52 jersey, was playing the role of Ray Lewis.

Among other things, the segment made fun of Lewis and his over-the-top shows of emotions, like his National Anthem crying spell before the AFC title game.  And pretty much every moment after the Ravens won.

Fittingly, Lewis said at his first Super Bowl media session that he found the skit so funny that, yes, he was in tears.

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Ray Lewis acknowledges his controversial history

NEW ORLEANS — The most controversial, charismatic and complicated man in the city wore a three-piece suit and a smile.

Ray Lewis’ Last Ride has been an emotional month-long retirement lap filled with animated squirrel dances and biblical allusions.

His teammates call him “Mufasa,” the king of “The Lion King.” His detractors can’t see past a murky sequence of events that left two men dead 13 years ago.
Shortly after the Ravens arrived for Super Bowl XLVII on Monday, Lewis reiterated that his decision is final. He won’t be waffling. He’s retiring after the biggest game on the biggest stage.

“The guys ask me, ‘Are you really going to walk away?’ ” Lewis said. “I have so much to do. I really do. I have to go home and be a father to my kids. I ran my course in the game. My ultimate (goal) was always for this core of men that I’ve had to get back to the Super Bowl. And we’re here.”

Lewis, 37, is the Super Bowl’s captivating figure, a leader to some, a liar to others.

Long before Lewis was wrapping up a Hall of Fame career, he was caught up in a double killing outside a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in 2000. Lewis and two friends were charged with murder before the linebacker ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. The NFL fined him $250,000. He paid millions to the victims’ families as part of civil lawsuits.

Much of the football world has forgiven – or has chosen to forget – the events from that night in Atlanta.

“I don’t know nobody that’s ever lived a perfect life,” Lewis said. “I have (seen) people that have been through things before. Realistically, most of the time when you find somebody that goes through adversity, you really find out what their true character is. For me, people really now have taken time to find out who I am … and (what) my character is.”

“For someone who has been through adversity and found his way out and really just showing what my true character is and who I am as a person.”

Some people will likely never forgive Lewis. Last week, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker’s wife, Anna, brought up his past on her Facebook page after the Ravens’ win over New England in the AFC Championship Game: “If anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis’ Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!!”

Lewis said on Monday that he didn’t harbor any ill will toward Anna Burns Welker, who apologized hours after she went public.

“I’ve always been a firm believer of the Good Book,” Lewis said. “The Good Book always confirms even a fool is counted wise until he opens he or she mouth. I truly forgive her. I believe people just make mistakes and say foolish things.”

Lewis, who missed more than two months with a torn triceps, retraced his career in 15 short minutes. He talked about everything from getting his first career sack, on Jim Harbaugh, to going through personal adversity to wanting his teammates to feel the way he did when he won a Super Bowl 12 years ago.

“The ride,” Lewis said. “I would never complain about one moment of it.”

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Ray Lewis To Be Honored With The Lifetime Of Inspiration Award At The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Thirteen-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXXV MVP Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, will be honored with the prestigious Lifetime of Inspiration Award at the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration concert on February 1, 2013 at 7:30 PM, at the University of New Orleans: Lake Front Arena. The Lifetime of Inspiration Award has only been presented once in the history of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration event to Former NFL Head Coach Tony Dungy in 2009, as it is reserved to celebrate extraordinary individuals who have impacted the sport and community.

This year's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration will pay tribute to Ray Lewis for his faith-filled determination to overcome trials and tribulations on and off the field, while recognizing him for his remarkable football career. "His accomplishments and triumphs have inspired football fans, teammates and colleagues – a true representation of what the essence of the convergence of faith and football is all about," says Melanie Few-Harrison , Creator & Producer of Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. "As a big supporter of the event, Ray Lewis has attended many Super Bowl Gospel Celebrations and sang in the NFL Players Choir, so we are beyond thrilled to honor him in what is sure to be a memorable year."

The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, currently in its 14th year, joins together NFL players, Grammy Award-winning artists, and special guests, on one stage to kick off Super Bowl Weekend. Emmy Award-winning co-host of ABC's "The View," Sherri Shepherd and seven-time Grammy Award-winning gospel musician, Kirk Franklin , will host the musical celebration. Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling artist and American Idol winner Fantasia will headline the show, which will include performances by top gospel and contemporary Christian artists Donnie McClurkin , Marvin Winans , Bishop Paul S. Morton , and this year's NFL "Players' Choice" hip-hop Christian artist Lecrae.

The highlight of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration is the NFL Players Choir. Composed exclusively of current and former players, the choir has become one of the most anticipated performances during Super Bowl Weekend. Celebrating its six-year anniversary, the NFL Players Choir includes more than 40 members, including Hall Of Famers and Pro Bowlers. Several Christian NFL players who wanted to share their faith through their musical talents in song formed the Choir. The group offers fans an opportunity to see a very personal side of the players off the field, as they make joyful noise.

Ray Lewis has played with the Baltimore Ravens since the team's inception, and for his entire 17-year career. This year, he has decided to hang up his jersey and retire after he plays in his last game against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, February 3, 2013.

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He's no Ray Lewis, but Frank Gore inspires Niners

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Retiring linebacker Ray Lewis, in all his pulsating, gyrating, preaching glory, clearly serves as the Baltimore Ravens' inspirational leader.

His opposite number on the San Francisco 49ers? A low-key veteran who can barely be heard above a whisper.

Running back Frank Gore inspires not with his dances or speeches but rather with the devotion and hard work that have characterized his eight seasons in the NFL.

A four-time Pro Bowler and the franchise's all-time leading rusher, Gore didn't enjoy a winning season until coach Jim Harbaugh arrived on the scene in 2011. His teammates say he's a motivating force.

"It makes me feel great knowing that all of the guys have a lot of respect for me,'' Gore said, surrounded by reporters who strained to hear his soft voice. "They know how much I love the game of football and know that I'd do whatever it takes to win for them. We've been through hard times. I've been here since '05 and it took me seven years to get to the playoffs.''

Gore, 29, had another banner year in 2012, rushing for 1,214 yards – his second-highest total ever – and scoring eight touchdowns.

He was not as productive once the 49ers started relying more on the read-option in the second half of the season after Colin Kaepernick took over as the starting quarterback, but Gore delivered two touchdowns and 90 rushing yards as San Francisco reached its sixth Super Bowl by beating the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 in the NFC Championship Game.

In the second-round game against the Green Bay Packers, Gore set a career playoff high with 119 yards on the ground and also scored twice.

"I can tell you this means a lot to everybody,'' right guard Alex Boone said of getting to the title game, "but those older guys like Frank, Justin (Smith), Dave (Akers) and Randy (Moss), it's big for them and it would be big for us to get them that ring.''

That would be a crowning achievement for Gore, one he only wishes he could share with his mother, Liz, who died in September 2007 of kidney disease. She was a big fan, tried to coach him a little and used to ride a bus to watch him play while he was in high school.

Through all the trials he endured -- including knee surgeries that threatened his career -- Gore said her death was definitely the biggest test.

"She used to call me at a certain time before the game, and that day the time came and I didn't get the call, I just burst out and I cried, cried, cried,'' Gore recalled. "I know she would have wanted me to play. I had a pretty good game that day. I think she came on the field because I made a crazy run, I don't know how I broke all the tackles and got the touchdown.''

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Ray Lewis' open expression of faith unifies Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The voice is a thunderclap in a room of loud men. It rises high then rolls low, fueled by tears and agony and joy. The voice spills stories from a book – a good book – the speaker believes and the men listen and nod and agree because many of the Baltimore Ravens read this very same book. And because they trust the voice and they trust the Bible from which the voice reads, they believe the voice gives them strength. They believe it gives them unity. They believe it is helping them win.

This is the Ray Lewis the Ravens know.

But this is not how much of America sees Lewis. Even though the Ravens linebacker has been a great star and one of football's most dominant defensive players for much of the past 17 years, his name is forever frozen in a single event that occurred right after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta in 2000. The lingering images are of an NFL player standing trial for the murder of two men.

And while he was never convicted of the murders and the case against him didn't seem strong, enough questions still exist. The public conviction will never go away. So as these playoffs have extended and the celebrations of Lewis boomed, his boisterous declarations of faith have crashed against old perceptions.

For every Peyton Manning waiting to embrace him after Baltimore's AFC division round win in the Denver, there is an Anna Burns Welker, wife of Patriots receiver Wes, who wrote: "Please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids, 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!"

At Super Bowl week, the clash will be bigger than ever. Lewis will rant and quote scripture in the final media sessions of his career. The skeptics will shout louder than they have before. And much of America won't know exactly what to think.

Faith is a tricky thing in sports. It bathes some players in a luminous light of good while making others look like cheap opportunists. Many of those same fans who hang on the every word of Tim Tebow express disgust at the very idea of Ray Lewis. This despite the fact that Tebow's expressions of Christianity have had far less impact in the Broncos' and Jets' locker rooms than Lewis's have had in Baltimore's. To the teammates of both men, Ray Lewis is a far bigger hero than Tim Tebow.

He turned a ragged life into a good life. Isn't that something to celebrate?

"According to the Bible his sins are forgiven," says Orlando Magic vice president Pat Williams, who has spoken and written about his own faith. "He's come from a totally different background than someone like Tim Tebow. He has come to Christ later in life but isn't that true of so many? The Bible teaches us that not only are our sins forgiven but they are forgotten."

Everything in Ray Lewis' recent existence says he is the man he claims to be. His rambling speeches may sound tiresome after awhile. A few teammates might grow bored or find his declarations of faith to be irritating, but few doubt his sincerity. Nobody sniffs out a fake in sports faster than another athlete. If Lewis didn't live his words, the Ravens would have long stopped listening.

More than most teams, the Baltimore players' faith is close to the surface, especially in the weeks since Lewis returned from a triceps injury at the start of the playoffs and declared he was playing the last games of his career. Throughout the Ravens' double overtime win over Denver he kept yelling "No weapon formed against you shall prosper!" Afterward, coach John Harbaugh spoke of a "spirituality" that was taking over the locker room. He said people are probably uncomfortable with him saying that. But it was an honest appraisal of where his team is. And a lot of the Ravens' emotions are driven by Lewis – no matter how perplexing that might be for people outside the team.

"To have such a big personality be so passionate about his faith it certainly helps us all bring it out," Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox said.

Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones says Lewis doesn't even swear at practice. And while plenty of Ravens do, his power is so extreme that many follow his lead. In fact his influence around teammates is so immense it's almost impossible to find a comparison in football. Rare is a defensive player also the leader of a locker room. The next closest thing might be Reggie White whose presence dominated the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. Many around the Packers felt his impact was larger than even that of Brett Favre.

Brett Fuller, the pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Northern Virginia and the Redskins' team pastor, was a good friend of White, who died in 2004. He's the godfather to one of White's children. Though he doesn't know Lewis personally, he sees White's larger-than-life affirmations in the Ravens' star. He can see a team congealing around Lewis the way Green Bay did around White in the Super Bowl years of 1996 and 1997.

"Very few guys can say the team is my team and have it not affect the locker room," Fuller says.

The next week is going to say a lot about the final legacy of Ray Lewis. The man from the murder scene in 2000 has a chance to convert doubters with his words and actions in preparation of the Ravens' showdown against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. If the Ravens win and the players continue to talk about the inspiration he has been to them, opinions will have to change.

"There's no way we can escape our public reputation," Fuller says. "I can't fault people who listen to Ray's past and question his credibility. But I will say: 'Can't we get people to see the redemption?' No we aren't all perfect. At some point in life we are accused of something and everybody wants to write a new chapter."

And if Ray Lewis' newest chapter has truly been good, pulling together the Baltimore Ravens for this run to the Super Bowl, it might be worth wondering if maybe Lewis's complicated legacy isn't so complex after all.

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'Two camps' on Ravens' Ray Lewis in Florida hometown

LAKELAND, Fla. – No street is named after Ray Lewis in his hometown.

City fathers have yet to erect a statue or post a plaque bearing the name of their local football hero, one of the NFL's most popular and decorated players. No "Welcome to the home of Ray Lewis'' sign can be found in a region dominated by citrus groves, cattle farming and phosphate mining.

But in Baltimore, there is Ray Lewis Way.

The Ravens middle linebacker is worshipped for his on-field exploits during 17 seasons and community activism in Charm City, which includes his Ray Lewis 52 Foundation to aid disadvantaged youth. In October, the Maryland chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored Lewis with the organization's "Outstanding American'' award for commendable deeds beyond the sport.

Back home in central Florida, and nationally, the view is more polarized. Perceived past slights, questions about Lewis' involvement in a double-homicide 13 years ago in Atlanta, and his fathering six children with four women, none of whom he married, seem to haunt Lewis.

Anna Burns Welker, wife of New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker, dredged up Lewis' past with a Facebook rant last Sunday after the AFC title game, writing in part: "A true role model!" She apologized after a dust-up ensued.

But even in Lakeland, "You have two camps'' of thought, says Stephen Poole, who coached Lewis when he was a state champion prep wrestler.

"Some people love him to death – 'Ray's this and Ray's that.' Then there are others who do not like Ray. They feel he should be doing more for (his alma mater) Kathleen High and Lakeland. He has done well for himself but some are jealous,'' Poole told USA TODAY Sports.

Ernest Joe is a former head coach of the Kathleen High Red Devils football team. A large man with a friendly yet commanding presence, he is – like Lewis – a man of faith. The Baptist church deacon and Sunday school teacher shakes his head when he ponders one of Christianity's most important tenets in relation to a man he considers his son.

"I read something online with folks bringing up old stuff about Ray; it made me angry,'' Joe said. "We want people to forgive us, but we don't want to forgive anyone else.

"Ray has to rise above it. He's been movin' on. As far as I know, he's been leading a good life by not getting in trouble. People just can't hone in on the bad thing. What about the good things?''

On the field, no doubters remain. Lewis, 37, plans to play his final game Feb. 3 in New Orleans. The 13-time Pro Bowler will give his last inspirational pre-game speech to his Ravens as they meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

Lakeland 'always home'
Lewis is the only current Raven with a championship ring after he was named Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 in Tampa, 35 miles from where he was raised.

In the days leading up to that game, Lewis was asked about his hometown.

"He was being flip and said it was a one-light town,'' recalled Lakeland mayor Gow Fields. "Many people were offended ... One reason the community is as sensitive as it is, is that Polk County is looked down upon as being rural and poorly educated. People with that chip on their shoulder expected Ray to say something positive.''

Asked Thursday in Baltimore about how he is viewed in Lakeland, Lewis warmly said, "That's always home. That's where everything (is) that I'm connected to."
He was born in Bartow, about 12 miles from Lakeland, located between Tampa and Orlando along the I-4 corridor. A city of nearly 100,000, Lakeland also is known as the longtime spring training base for the Detroit Tigers and for 38 (named) lakes.

With an African-American population of about 20%, the city also has a history of racial divisiveness. At one time, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan had a Polk County address, which Fields paints as "part of the historical image of the community.''

During the Ravens' 34-7 wipeout of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis was unstoppable. But afterward, he was not permitted to appear on camera to give the customary "I'm going to Disneyland!'' exclamation reserved for Super Bowl MVPs. His likeness did not grace the cover of a Wheaties box.
For many, Lewis had become a leper.

A year earlier, Lewis, then 26, and two friends were charged with murder in the deaths of Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21. In a plea-bargain agreement, Lewis pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice for lying to police. He received a year's probation, and the NFL fined him $250,000.

Co-defendants Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were acquitted. Lewis later reached financial settlements with parties related to the slain men.

Lewis had just completed his fourth NFL season in 2000. He led the league in tackles and was headed to his third consecutive Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Instead of a relaxing offseason, he found himself in a jail cell.

"He called me from Fulton County Jail,'' Joe recalled. "I said, 'Look, you gotta tell me ... tell me the truth.' He said, 'Coach, I had nothing to do with this. I was there but I didn't do what they say.'

"That was good enough. We prayed. But I wanted to see him; I wanted him to look me in the eyes and talk like a man. It was tough seeing him behind bars. ... Here's a kid you groomed. (At trial), it was like my own child going through that ordeal.''

Lewis has declined to comment on the Atlanta incident.

Friends see changed man
Today, family and friends back home say that "Baby Ray'' is a changed man, a better man.

Yet, redemption seems to have come slowly.

A lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lewis was not inducted into his high school's Hall of Fame until 2009, long after he starred for the Miami Hurricanes and Ravens. That night, an emotional Lewis asked the audience: "What will your legacy be when your eyes are closed?''

Lewis is "perceived a far different way here than in Baltimore,'' says Earl Brown, a college professor, life coach and pastor who has known Lewis since childhood. "He has his naysayers (here). But he hasn't forgotten his roots.''

Lewis' father, Elbert Jackson, abandoned the family when Lewis was 6. Lewis was born to a 16-year-old mother, Sunseria "Buffy'' Smith, and the family lived in the projects until she eventually moved to Tennessee with her other children. Lewis remained in Lakeland and was raised by his supportive maternal grandparents, Gil and Elease McKinney, a school teacher.

"I think he longed for his father,'' Joe says.

"At one time, I thought (Lewis) would settle down ... We've never had a conversation about it. But I know he provides for his children. If he didn't, I would be on him.”

In recent years, Lewis has formed a relationship with his dad, who also was a stellar athlete at Kathleen but later struggled with drug addiction. The father and son exchanged a warm embrace in Lewis' final Ravens home game during the player's end-zone celebration with family. Lewis has said he wants to spend more time with his children, including watch Ray Lewis III play for the Hurricanes.

When he was young, Lewis received encouragement from mentors and positive role models, including his coaches and people such as Clinton Wright.

Kathleen's principal made sure that Lewis was admitted into college after he struggled to post acceptable standardized test scores.

"Ray is standing on the shoulders of a lot of people,'' said Deborah Wright, who tutored Lewis at the behest of her late husband. "We're still behind him today. He is not only a wealth (of good) in our community, he is a prime example of that old African tale that it takes an entire (village) to raise a child.''

"The only reason I'm here now is because of my hometown . . . because of the way we are,'' Lewis said Thursday. "We're way more country than you would think, and we have a certain love and togetherness there.''

At Kathleen, Lewis played linebacker and running back. He wrestled as a 189-pounder, but Poole said "he wasn't that strong – really.''

Poole recalled Lewis as an upbeat young man who proudly wore his ROTC uniform, a "good kid who never got written up.''

Poole mentioned the film Remember the Titans and said, "Ray was like one of those kids: 'We've got work to do!' Always laughing and smiling, always positive. I always was a Ray Lewis fan ... even in the dark days.''

Coach Joe said Lewis "had to learn the hard way'' from a deadly lesson that nearly cost him everything.

"In the community where I grew up, old folks had a saying: 'If you hang around dogs, you're going to pick up fleas,'" said Joe, now a senior director for the county school district. "He was just like any other young person – everybody's their friend (and) it's OK to have a posse. He hadn't learned (about life).''
In recent years, Lewis' frosty relationship with his hometown has displayed signs of thawing.

In 2011, during the same week he opened his foundation's Lakeland office, Lewis spoke at the city's CommUnity Celebration. Last spring, the foundation hosted Ray's Spring Fest, a fundraiser that included youth fitness clinics and a celebrity bowling tournament.

"Even though some folks still have some confusion over the (legal) challenges he had, the bottom line is this: Ray Lewis is a tough guy who has shown a compassionate heart for his community,'' said city Commissioner R. Howard Wiggs.

Mayor Fields told USA TODAY Sports, "I think today there are a lot of people who believe that Ray is, spiritually and emotionally, in a different place then when that (Atlanta) incident occurred.''

Joe accepts that people are entitled to their opinions. But when he thinks of Ray Anthony Lewis, he recalls an "extraordinary kid'' who always overcame adversity.

"Just like he fires up the Ravens now, he was the same way then,'' he said. "There were times I had to slow him down. He was like a magnet; kids just got excited about him. (After his triceps injury this season), he texted me, 'No weapon formed against me is gonna prosper.' He took it as a (challenge). I knew he would come back with a vengeance. He is a natural.''

The retired coach looked up and smiled.

"Like God blew a little extra talent on him,'' he said.

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Inside tale of Ray Lewis' parking-lot brawl homicide case

When Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis takes the field at next Sunday’s Super Bowl — his last game ever — much will be made of his storied career. Lewis, now 37, had his breakout season four years after being drafted by the Ravens in 1996: Leading tackler in the NFL, he led the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV and was named the game’s MVP.

Just one year before, Lewis had been arrested and tried in connection with a double homicide in Atlanta. It’s perhaps the most dramatic bookend that a professional athlete — a legend, at that — could have to his career: His first Super Bowl, played in the shadow of two slayings, made Ray Lewis a superstar. He now leaves his second Super Bowl an iconic all-American hero, beloved by small children and major corporations alike.

As much as the NFL loves a redemption narrative, the story of Ray Lewis is one that you probably won’t be hearing anything about next Sunday night. Lewis himself has made it clear that he will never address it again: “Really,” he told a reporter this month. “Really. Why would I talk about that?”

On the evening of Jan. 30, 2000, Ray Lewis was looking to party. He had flown to Atlanta to watch Super Bowl XXXIV and booked himself into the luxury Georgian hotel. He’d also brought along his personal driver, Duane Fassett, to chauffeur a stretch Lincoln Navigator: 37 feet long, 14 seats, $3,000 a day.

On this night, Lewis turned himself out: white-and-black suit, full-length black mink coat and what would later be described as “enough rock to break the bank.” A few nights earlier, he had met a gorgeous woman named Jessica Robertson at a party thrown by Magic Johnson, and it was she — not Lewis’ pregnant fiancée — who was his date for the evening.

What Lewis and his crew were doing before they arrived at around 1 a.m. at the Cobalt Club, in Atlanta’s party-centric Buckhead district, remains unclear. The Cobalt had a blue neon glow and a V.V.I.P room. Baseball star David Justice had been there earlier, as had Tony Gonzalez, then of the Kansas City Chiefs, but Lewis held court on the first floor, near the door, so everyone would notice.

With him were Joseph Sweeting, a strip-club promoter who’d been friends with Lewis since college, and Reginald Oakley, who’d recently worked his way into Lewis’ circle through friends of friends. They were getting to know each other better, though; the day before, the three men had gone shopping at a Sports Authority store, where Sweeting and Oakley bought folding knives.

“Smooth” was how Lewis would later describe his mood at Cobalt; he’d had four Rémy Martin cognacs while luxuriating in the attention of half-dressed women and an ever-expanding entourage. He was 24 years old and had a four-year contract worth $26 million. He had just dropped more than $100,000 shopping, and the necklace he was wearing — a gold door-stopper studded with diamonds — was one of his recent acquisitions.

At around 3:30 in the morning, Lewis and his crew of about 10 headed outside, where Oakley began to get aggressive with two other clubgoers — themselves part of a group of about 10. Oakley kept at it and got whacked on the side of the head with a champagne bottle. Then, Lewis would later testify, “all hell broke loose at that point. Everybody was throwing fists. Everybody was punching.”

Everyone, that is, except Ray Lewis, who testified that while all this was going on, he calmly rested against his limo, watching as his friend Sweeting was dragged and assaulted by two huge men.

“I don’t fight,” Lewis testified. “Period.”

Lewis wasn’t so calm, though, when two young men collapsed in the street, covered in blood. Lewis yelled at Robertson and his crew to get in the limo, and they scrambled and sped away as guns were fired at their tires. Minutes later, when the car came to a stop in a parking lot, Lewis took control of the situation.

“Everybody just shut the f--k up!” he yelled. “This ain’t going to come back on nobody but me.”

Meanwhile, those two young men lay dying in street: Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21. Both had records — Lollar for possession of marijuana, while Baker was wanted for violating probation on gun possession — and had recently moved to Atlanta from Akron, Ohio. Baker wanted to be an artist; Lollar, whose fiancée was pregnant, was a barber.

“These guys were slaughtered,” said Cindy Lollar-Owens, Richard’s aunt. “Like someone was getting a kick out of it.”

Lollar suffered five stab wounds: two to the heart, one to the chest and two to the abdomen. Baker, too, was stabbed directly in the heart and in the liver. Both died before they made it to the hospital. Baker’s face was beaten so badly that, he had a closed casket at his wake. Both men were buried in Akron, 24 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

After racing from the scene, Lewis’ limo didn’t return to his hotel, the Georgian, but instead to the Holiday Inn Express where Sweeting was staying. Lewis then took a cab back to the Georgian.

It didn’t take long for police to find the limo, shot through with bullet holes, blood in the interior. It sat just a mile from the crime scene, and when cops walked into the lobby, they found Lewis’ driver, Fassett, trembling and chain-smoking.

Fassett told the police he’d seen Sweeting, Oakley and Lewis all fighting and provided details that only an eyewitness could know. He said he’d heard Oakley boast, “I stabbed mine,” and Sweeting reply, “I stabbed mine, too.” When police got to Lewis’ room, they found blood there, too — but not Lewis, who had fled to his fiancée’s family home.

When cops arrived to question Lewis, he was, they felt, not helpful. It took less than a day to obtain an arrest warrant, and when police came to take Lewis in, he cried.

He cried some more in jail.

“I wept,” Lewis wrote on ESPNmag.com that December. “I wept when my 5-year-old son asked me why Daddy was always on TV wearing chains. I wept myself to sleep some nights on that nasty bed in that nasty cell.” It took 15 days for his lawyer to get him out.

Sweeting and Oakley were advised to turn themselves in, which they did.

While Ravens owner Art Modell called around for defense attorneys, cops were learning more about Lewis’ activities that night.

For example, his cellphone was unusually active right after Baker and Lollar were killed. Several eyewitnesses saw people exiting that limo with a laundry bag, which they threw in a Dumpster. Cops would never find the clothes Lewis wore that night, not even the mink. Nor would they find the photo taken of Lewis’ entourage that night, which Robertson had already burned.

A few hours after the murders, at about 6 a.m., Lewis had called Robertson and asked her to go to the Georgian and pack up everything he’d left behind. A jailhouse informant, meanwhile, told cops that Lewis was using one of his sisters to relay messages to Sweeting, telling him not to worry, that Lewis would never betray him.

Lewis himself felt he had little to worry about. The Ravens were standing firmly behind him. Lewis’ own private investigators beat the cops to just about every witness in the limo; they all got lawyers. His driver, Fassett, became increasingly unsure of what went down that night.

The trial began on May 15, 2000, and quickly fell apart. The state’s star witness, Fassett, recanted much of what he had told police. He swore he’d never seen Lewis strike anyone.

By the trial’s second week, Lewis wasn’t even attempting to appear respectful. He sat at the defense table and scrawled his autograph over and over. Finally, on June 4, Lewis’ attorney and the prosecution cut a deal. Lewis would testify against Sweeting and Oakley in exchange for one year’s probation on obstruction of justice. Lewis testified he saw Oakley fighting in the melee and that Sweeting had told Lewis he’d been punching with the same hand that cupped a knife.

Here, too, the prosecution miscalculated. On June 13, 2000, the jury acquitted both men on charges of murder and assault. They spent just five hours deliberating.

Ray Lewis’ career never took a hit, even as he spent years alternately playing victim — “Jesus Christ couldn’t please everybody . . . that’s my attitude” — and remaining defiant. “The real truth is, this was never about those two kids that were dead in the street,” he said in 2001. “It’s about Ray Lewis. Don’t be mad at me because I was on center stage.”

The victims’ families saw it differently, bringing civil suits against Lewis. He settled them out of court, with confidentiality agreements attached to both.

“The family didn’t get no money,” Priscilla Lollar, Richard’s mother, told The Post. Priscilla says Richard’s fiancée, who gave birth to his daughter one month after the slayings, received $4 million from Lewis — far more than the $1 million estimated. Lollar didn’t have the energy to fight herself; she was too grief-stricken, she says, to even attend his funeral.

“I didn’t even acknowledge my son was gone until last year,” she says. “I was numb.”

As far as Lewis is concerned, she believes he bears guilt for what happened that night but that “the answer to why — you’ll never get that. Because nothing is going to stop his career.”

She’s right.

Lewis will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years and is considered a lock. It’s widely rumored that ESPN wants to hire him as a color commentator, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said he wants to hire Lewis as a special adviser, citing him as a “tremendous voice of reason.”

And all these years later, Ray Lewis holds no regrets about what happened that night in Atlanta. “If I had to go through all of that over again . . . I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said recently. “Couldn’t. The end result is who I am now.”

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Ray Lewis a murderer? No, he's Ravens' inspiration

First of all, let's get this out of the way. Ray Lewis didn't kill anyone.

The Lewis-is-a-murderer mantra is the biggest thing you see the anti-Ray Lewis people say. It's repeated on every message board whenever the Ravens win and Lewis plays a prominent role. It's even repeated by the wives of New England Patriots players.

I covered the Lewis murder case. The NFL office, and most court observers and journalists around the case at the time, believed that the prosecution overreached in charging Lewis. This was later proven as the prosecution's case crumbled and Lewis was offered a misdemeanor obstruction plea deal.
An overreaching prosecution was a fact mentioned by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue in his then-record fine of Lewis.

This is all stated for an important reason. The narrative of Lewis as a murderer has become real in the eyes of some fans and adds to what has become Lewis' legendary status in the Baltimore locker room.

I get why some people hate Ray Lewis, but what he's done in turning around his life is miraculous. It's beyond Kobe Bryant post-rape accusations or Mike Tyson or maybe anything else that's happened in sports history.

You can hate him all you'd like -- and sometimes he's a bit much -- but to the Ravens, Lewis is football's version of a messiah. The players believe his protestations and preaching and that's all that matters.

"The more people attack Ray and bring up his past," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "the more we believe in him. He's the greatest leader I've ever seen."

A doctorate thesis or several books could be written on all of the religious-socio-political-racial issues involved in what Lewis is doing now. There has never been anyone in NFL history like Lewis who garners a flock of followers using both action and words. Normally, this kind of influence and belief system comes to a player only after he's died.

When Lewis speaks of destiny and God's plan, the players believe this as well. They are fully in. If you doubt this fact, you don't know this locker room.

The thing I hear most from Baltimore players about why they love Lewis (I use that word purposely) is that, as one player explained, "He's been through the s--- and back." The players know all about Lewis' past (particularly the murder accusation) and to them, what happened to Lewis could have happened to any of them.

That last point cannot be emphasized enough.

So hate Lewis all you'd like. Ignore how he's come back from the brink. Call him a murderer.

That just adds kindling to an already intense flame. The Ravens believe in Lewis and belief is a powerful force.

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Ray Lewis tells Ravens teammates to avoid Lombardi Trophy poses

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens welcomed CBS to their suburban facility Wednesday to take head shots for the Super Bowl XLVII broadcast, and they brought a prop – a non-engraved Lombardi Trophy.

A few players got cozy with the NFL's Holy Grail, up for grabs in 10 days, when the Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

Then Ray Lewis showed up and set them straight.

"Everybody wants to have you take pictures with it. And it's like I told my team, 'Don't ever take pictures with something that's not yours, nothing that you haven't earned,' " Lewis said Thursday. "When we hold that Lombardi, whoever holds it next Sunday, you've earned it.

"I don't really believe in jinxes and all that, and just believe, don't set yourself up for something."

Lewis, 37, is the only player on the current Ravens roster who was on the team that trounced the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. The Lombardi Trophy from that Super Bowl is encased in glass near a fireplace in the plush lobby at Ravens headquarters.

's OK to ogle that trophy, as quarterback Joe Flacco has admitted to doing in the past, but there's no touching that one or any other until they earn it.

"I think it's great," said Ravens running back Ray Rice of Lewis' order. "I'm not superstitious or anything, but I don't want to see anything that's not rightfully ours yet. We've got to work to get that."

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Buffalo News explores different angle of Ray Lewis murder case

With the presumed future employer of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis devoting 30 minutes of air time to a 13-year-old case of double murder, it’s hard for Lewis or the Ravens to criticize any other media outlet for paying attention to the story.

The Buffalo News has paid plenty of attention to it on Thursday, with a story and video regarding the first visit of the mother of one of the victims to his grave.

Priscilla Lollar didn’t attend the funeral and hadn’t been to the cemetery, which is only 21 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.  Lollar recently told USA Today that she still holds out hope that her son, Richard, will walk through the door of her home.

“I don’t discuss him in the past,” Lollar said.  “I don’t really acknowledge anything.”

She acknowledged everything on Wednesday, taking another son to the site of Richard Lollar’s grave.

“I want to see if he’s in there,” Priscilla Lollar said at the site where Richard Lollar is buried, via Tim Graham of the Buffalo News.  “I don’t know.  I don’t know.
“I never seen him in no casket or anything.  So I don’t know.  Now I want to see what’s up under here.  I want to see if he’s in there or anything.

“I want him to come on back home!  I just want him to come home!”

The reality is that no one would be talking or writing about this story if the Ravens weren’t headed to the Super Bowl, for what will be the final game in the 17-year career of Ray Lewis.  And Priscilla Lollar likely wouldn’t be talking and thinking as much about it.

The only remotely good news in all of this is that Priscilla Lollar may have finally obtained some closure.

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Ray Lewis focused on 49ers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For weeks, no one could determine when The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour would draw to a close.

Since Lewis announced on Jan. 2 his "last ride" in the NFL would coincide with the end of the Ravens' postseason run, there was the possibility that each game would be his last.

Now, after successful stops in Denver and New England, there is no longer any doubt: Win or lose, Lewis will perform for the final time on Feb. 3, in New Orleans on the NFL's grandest stage.

It wouldn't be surprising if Lewis approached the Super Bowl with a feeling of finality, but the 37-year-old middle linebacker insisted Thursday that he's thinking only about helping the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.

"Honestly, outside of putting my head in the playbook and studying San Fran, I really haven't thought about anything else," Lewis said.

"It's going to be a great day, period, no matter what happens. And that's kind of the way I've approached it," he said. "I haven't even said, 'Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?' I really haven't. Because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize."

Now in his 17th season, Lewis is preparing for his second Super Bowl -- and first in 12 years. The last time he played for the NFL championship, Lewis earned MVP honors in Baltimore's 34-7 win over the New York Giants.

After waiting all this time to get back, Lewis has no intention of merely settling for being part of the big game.

"The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl," he said. "It's great to get there, don't get me wrong, but to win it is something special."

And then, only then, Lewis will think about what it means to walk off the football field for the final time.

"You feel that confetti drop, I'll probably reflect then, when I'm there," he said. "But, it really hasn't crossed my mind like that."

San Francisco inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who wears No. 52, has nothing but admiration for Baltimore's No. 52.

"I'm just a big fan of him, period," Willis said Thursday. "Just his enthusiasm on the field, the passion he plays with. I've always been a big fan of those who play with passion, such as Ray Lewis. I know people always want to make comparisons and talk about torches and all this. At the end of the day, I always say I can only be the best player I can be.

"As a fellow linebacker, being at the Pro Bowl and being able to be coached by the same coach (Mike Nolan) at one point in time in our careers, we've become friends. Ray's one of those guys, he loves to give his wisdom and give his knowledge, and I'm the type that I love to listen -- anybody who's been there, done that, especially his caliber of player, who's played a long time."

Lewis has been with the Ravens since 1996, and it wasn't long after his arrival that he became the captain of the defense. As his career went on, he lost a step but made up for it with tireless film study and sharp instincts.

After his rookie year, the only time Lewis didn't get a Pro Bowl invitation were those seasons when he was beset by injury -- 2002, 2005 and 2012.

Last year he received his 13th Pro Bowl nod despite missing four games with a foot injury. This season, after tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14, there was a strong possibility he wouldn't be back.

At first, the Ravens believed he was done for the year. But Lewis vowed to return, and his teammates were determined to make it happen.

"We knew we wanted to make the playoffs in order for Ray to have a chance to come back," safety Ed Reed said. "He's that engine, that motor that's going to go all the time. He understands what the offense is trying to do to you when you're talking about the run game. He's calling out plays before they even happen. That's what you really miss when Ray is out."

Since his return, Lewis has 44 tackles in three games. He isn't limping into retirement; rather, he's headed out with a flourish.

"He's played really well. He's played just like he's always played," coach John Harbaugh said.

Lewis attributes his involuntary 10-game absence as the reason behind his resurgence on the field.

"I've always said that anytime you can give your body a true rest -- not just your body -- anytime you can give your mind a certain rest from the game and from the every week wear and tear, when you come back you come back just as fresh as ever," Lewis said. "For me right now, I feel fresh. My mind is fresh, my body is fresh and I'm just excited to really be able to end the thing up the right way."

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Future Ray Lewis employer dredges up murder case

If members of the Ravens heckled a reporter from USA Today who dared to ask linebacker Ray Lewis about an unsolved double murder case, they could soon be getting the rotten tomatoes and eggs ready for anyone with a four-letter network affiliation.

ESPN, which reportedly will hire Lewis after he retires, devoted an entire episode of Outside The Lines to the impact of the 13-year-old murder case on the legacy of one of the greatest players in NFL history.

A pre-taped item narrated by Bob Ley revisited the aftermath of the case, which resulted in Lewis being charged with murder and eventually pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.  The package included defiant quotes from former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe and former Ravens coach Brian Billick from the week preceding Super Bowl XXXV, which were intended to force the media to turn the page permanently (or at least until after the game) on any talk of the unsolved murders.

“I find it inexcusable that that organization from the top down from the owner to the coach went into that Super Bowl and somehow acted like Ray Lewis got a bad deal,” Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post said during the segment.  “Ray Lewis got a raw deal?  Compared to who?  The dead guy?”

Lewis may find it inexcusable that so much time has been spent by his future employer on a 13-year old case, which he refused to discuss earlier this month when questioned about it by USA Today.  ESPN’s decision to devote 30 full minutes to the topic arguably makes the subject fair game for everyone else.

Michael Hiestand of USA Today participated in the live discussion that followed.  “There’s certainly nothing wrong with anyone raising questions about murders that are unsolved,” Hiestand said.

Indeed, if the media outlet that will soon be issuing paychecks to Lewis can raise those questions, then anyone can.

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Sneak Peek PHOTO: Ray Lewis' Jersey With Super Bowl XLVII Patch


Here the jersey Ray Lewis will be wearing for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

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Michael Phelps credits Ray Lewis for inspiring his comeback

Maybe if Ray Lewis gets bored doing television in his retirement, he can devote all his energies to the U.S. Olympic team.

If that’s the case, the United States might win every medal in every sport contested.

Because none other than Michael Phelps, the Baltimore-native who has become the most decorated Olympian of all time, said Lewis helped save his swimming career.

“What he did for me is the best thing in the world,” Phelps told Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. “He helped me come back.”

Lewis could probably motivate a bowling ball to swim, but Phelps said that the Ravens linebacker was instrumental to getting back on track after he won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Phelps had been watching Lewis since he was a young boy (Lewis was drafted when Phelps was 11), and he said that talking to Lewis helped him push through some personal problems (which he did not describe in detail).

“We’ve talked about so much the last couple years of my career,” Phelps said. “He just helped me get through a lot of hard times, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him. He’s been telling me, ‘One more shot. We’re gonna have one more shot.’ And he did it. . . .

“He’s probably the only person who could really help me do that. He’s been through everything — the ups and downs — and he’s helped me literally overcome a lot of things that I’ve had in my life that have been tough, and he’s been there for me.”

Phelps has become a fixture on the Ravens’ sidelines, and was there for Lewis in the locker room after the AFC Championship Game, one Baltimore legend giving thanks to another.

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Ray Lewis won’t be forgotten

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In an era obsessed with legacy, Ray Lewis’s will be a complex one.

Long before he announced he would retire after 17 seasons as the fire-breathing identity of the Baltimore Ravens, he was a member of an exclusive fraternity that defined the linebacker position: Nitschke, Singletary, Lambert, Butkus, and Taylor as his only real company. His brand of intensity, a jolting mix of primal intimidation and joyful aggression, could be read as both genuine love for the game and self-aggrandizing bluster.

But he will be remembered as much for his dominance on the field as he will for his tribulations away from it, and then for his ability to rehabilitate both his life and his image and make an impact beyond the game. Thirteen years ago, he was on trial for the stabbing deaths of two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, outside an Atlanta nightclub after Super Bowl XXXIV, and although he ultimately reached a plea deal for misdemeanor obstruction of justice, he payed a tangible price in the form of a $250,000 fine, at the time the highest the league had ever levied. He continued to pay in the court of public opinion.

He spent as much time on Court TV as he did on ESPN, and when the Ravens beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV barely seven months after his trial, he was shown in small ways how far his star had fallen. He was the only player to be honored as the most valuable player of a Super Bowl who was shunned by Disney World, Wheaties, and ostensibly the NFL, which did not use his image for the cover of its Super Bowl media guide the year after the Ravens won it.

But in the years since, Lewis has been a tale of personal redemption and a case study for image rehabilitation. He has become an ambassador for the game, a mentor both in and outside of his locker room, and a motivational speaker with far-reaching appeal beyond his sport.

Over time, he has again become a viable pitchman, showing up on the cover of Madden NFL Football and most recently starring in a Visa commercial, and should the Ravens defeat the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship game and set up Lewis’s Super Bowl swan song, it’s doubtful he would be snubbed again.

“I think the greatest thing you can ever be remembered for is the impact and things that you had on other people,” Lewis said Thursday. “At the end of the day, with all of the men that I’ve been around, to one day look back here and listen to men say, ‘He was one of people who helped changed my life,’ is probably one of the greatest legacies to be remembered for.”

Support never wavered
From Babe Ruth to Johnny Unitus, Frank Robinson to Brooks Robinson, Lenny Moore to Cal Ripken, Baltimore has seen its legends come and go.

“Now our sports icon is Ray Lewis,” said Larry Young, a former Maryland State Senator and currently a radio personality for Baltimore’s WOLB. “People who this town has grabbed and said, ‘This one we’re all proud of.’ He’s now the icon.”

Lewis has become a walking personification of a proud city torn by violence but still looking for its own rehabilitation. He brought Baltimore its first championship since the Colts won Super Bowl V in 1970, molding the defense into his image, leading the team in tackles 14 of his 17 seasons. No other defensive player has played as many years with his original team.

Three years ago, the city named the portion of North Avenue, where Lewis hosts his annual Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway, “Ray Lewis Way.” At the ceremony, Lewis said, “All of these people with all this love and affection, that’s the same love I look at y’all with, because I lean on you the same way you lean on me.”
When Lewis was in the thick of the June 2000 murder trial, Young organized a prayer service at New Shiloh Baptist Church.

“I felt, when you go through times of this type, you should have prayer with you,” Young said. “We had no reason to believe the situation as it was portrayed. The hope was that if indeed this did occur that Ray was not going to be caught up in it.

“Of course, as we know, that’s how things turned out in his favor. But there was no information, there was nothing that led us to believe that here in Baltimore — he hadn’t been part of any of that activity in Baltimore. All that was new to us as it was being brought out down in Atlanta.”

Young befriended Lewis but when the city’s star was at the center of the murder trial, he was sent to monitor it. Young said the city’s support for Lewis never wavered.

“Down there during the trial, it was tense with the allegations we were hearing in the courtroom,” Young said. “But up here, I don’t think the citizens let what was being said to them grab them in such a way. There was an overwhelming feeling that Ray was not going to be found guilty. There was a sense that this is crazy, it’s confusing, it wasn’t very pretty what happened, obviously, but our Ray Lewis said this and we believe him. I don’t think he lost much favor up here as a result of the allegations.”

Trial of his life
Time has repaired Lewis’s good name, but it has done nothing to heal the families of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker.

“It’s like it happened yesterday,” said Cindy Lollar-Owens, Richard’s aunt. “He was like one of my children.”

When Lewis and the Ravens reached the Super Bowl the January after his murder trial, both families were put through the emotional wringer, the confetti falling on Lewis as he celebrated the pinnacle of his career while the victims’ families were being besieged by media looking for their sides of the story. Lewis’s retirement and the Ravens’ playoff run has created an imperfect storm, dragging the painful memories up again for the victims.

“I think it’s more sad because it’s being brought back out into the spotlight,” Lollar-Owens said. “We never forgot about it. Some family members talk about him, some of them don’t. Everybody handles death differently, but just the way it happened, it’s just sad.”

In 2001, Lollar-Owens went to Tampa for Super Bowl XXXV to protest. She took the trip alone, armed with only flyers and pictures of her nephew, and an easel to hoist.

“A great big ol’ easel,” she said. “Bigger than me.”

She doesn’t see herself making a trip to New Orleans this time if the Ravens again reach football’s biggest stage.

She’s read countless stories about Lewis since the incident. Each one paints a different portrait of him.

“It’s so many different stories it’s hard to say what’s the truth and what’s not the truth,” she said. She said she met Lewis.

“He just said how sorry he was and that his attorney was telling him he couldn’t say anything,” she said. “He couldn’t apologize or anything.”

Now she wants to be able to move on.

“I don’t want to just harbor all this forever,” she said. “I mean, what good is it going to do. It’s like a pie. You cut it in three parts, you’ve got a third that believe he did it, another third that don’t believe, then you’ve got another third that don’t give a damn.

“So what do you do? You go on with your life and try to think about the good things. I want to remember my nephew as Richard Lollar, the barber. I do not want to remember Richard as being murdered.”

Should she ever speak to Lewis again, she said she has two requests.

“My nephew has a headstone and when I go and visit my nephew’s grave, I do not like bending down and looking down at his grave,” she said. “I would like to be able to stand up and look at him. Also, I would like to get a building, get it lavished and have it in his name — Richard Lollar’s barbershop. I want to remember my nephew as Richard Lollar, the magnificent barber. That would be my closure.”

Always moving forward
Without question, Lewis will be commemorated with a bust in Canton, Ohio. With the deaths of former owner Art Modell, along with family members of both defensive lineman Pernell McPhee and wide receiver Torrey Smith, the Ravens’ season was already emotionally charged, but when Lewis announced this month he would retire, it gave the season a different purpose.

“We know this is the last ride for Ray,” said defensive back Corey Graham. “It’s big. I know for me as a defender, it means a lot. I’m out there with him, an opportunity to play with him probably the last time ever, and you don’t want to be the guy to let him down.”

A player synonymous with the franchise will walk away from the game, and an era in Ravens football will come to an end. Lewis will be one of the greatest players the NFL has ever seen. He will be remembered for everything he’s accomplished on the football field, but not completely defined by it. He will be far removed from the tragedy 13 years ago.

“At the end of the day, all of our eyes will close one day,” Lewis said. “When they do, my only job is to hear those two famous words from God himself, and that’s, ‘Well done.’ Success is one thing; I’ve always believed impact is another. To go out in the communities and change someone’s life, I believe that’s what all of our jobs should be one day.

“It’s not to compete against nobody in this. It’s not to make somebody feel bad or make somebody relive this or relive that. It’s to teach someone how to move forward. No matter what you go through in life, you have to find out a different way how to move forward.”

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Wes Welker's wife apologizes over Ray Lewis comments

The wife of Patriots receiver Wes Welker apologized for comments critical of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis following the Ravens' 28-13 win over the Patriots in Sunday's AFC championship game.

After the loss, Anna Welker posted the following comment to her Facebook page, according to TheBigLead.com:

"Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!"

Monday, Anna Welker released a statement to blog Larry Brown Sports apologizing for her remarks.

"I'm deeply sorry for my recent post on Facebook," she said. "I let the competitiveness of the game and the comments people were making about a team I dearly love get the best of me. My actions were emotional and irrational and I sincerely apologize to Ray Lewis and anyone affected by my comment after yesterday's game.

"It is such an accomplishment for any team to make it to the NFL playoffs, and the momentary frustration I felt should not overshadow the accomplishments of both of these amazing teams."

Lewis and the Ravens will play the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

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Stat of the Week: Ray Lewis Playoff Performances

If Ray Lewis -- who wore an Art Modell T-shirt under his jersey Sunday -- has much left in the tank, well, he's a pretty good physical specimen. Lewis turns 38 in May, and the Super Bowl will be his last football game.

The Ravens have played 87, 87 and 83 defensive snaps in their three playoff games, in Baltimore, Denver and Foxboro, in the span of 15 days ... when they averaged playing 68 defensive snaps per game in the regular season. Lewis has played all 257 defensive snaps. And though Lewis hasn't been his 27-year-old sideline-to-sideline dominating self, he has been consistently around the ball to the tune of:


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Ray Lewis delivers sermons, Terrell Suggs offers barbs en route to Super Bowl

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There is a delicate balance with the Baltimore Ravens, be it on the field where they were mauling Tom Brady – or "12" as Terrell Suggs would only refer to him – or back in a wild celebratory locker room.

It's prideful and petty, powerful and humble, on the edge of controlled rage and on the brink of tears over how this wonderful playoff run has played out. It is a team, especially on defense, that has figured out how to channel it all, to play to an emotional cliff without losing control. It is a team, a linebacking crew, a locker room of Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, one a 37-year-old, just-hanging on legend who fashions himself a preacher, the other a 30-year-old in his prime juggernaut who doesn't mind playing a wrestling villain for laughs.

One couldn't get here – the Gillette scoreboard reading Ravens 28, Patriots 13 – without the other. And vice versa.

It is a juxtaposition that has Lewis paying his respect to the Ravens' late owner, Art Modell, by wearing a T-shirt under his shoulder pads with Modell's face and lifespan (1925-2012) printed on it. And one that has Suggs offering a less traditional remembrance.

"Art Mo-deezy," Suggs sang. "Art Mo-deezy. Art Mo-deezy, watching down on us. Shout out to Art Mo-deezy."

And to that Lewis could only laugh because it's what keeps him youthful, what drove him back after tearing his triceps in October, what lets him survive in a young man's game even as he acknowledges his old man legs.

Ray and Terrell. Lewis and Suggs. Old and young, 21 combined tackles as part of the core of a Ravens defense that demolished those Pats, forced Brady into 25 incompletions, two picks and zero second-half points.

"Shut out in the second half … " Suggs shouted, preached, just getting going.

"Oh my God," Lewis screamed like he was a member of the flock.

"… in Foxborough," Suggs went on.

"Oh my God," Lewis matched him.

"Shut out," Suggs said. "Shut out."

This was a locker room born of frustrations past, battles lost, injuries suffered. This here was a long time coming, especially up here in Massachusetts, where a Super Bowl dream died in this very game 12 months ago. That night Lewis stood and answered about retirement but vowed to return. Suggs, the 2011 defensive player of the year, would miss the start of this season with a torn Achilles and then later games with torn biceps.

It wasn't until the start of the playoffs that Lewis, Suggs and safety Ed Reed, the final piece of the iconic triumvirate, were on the field together this season. The Ravens haven't lost since.

Every time Lewis started getting emotional, overwhelmed by the moment, overwhelmed by one last opportunity, Suggs took it back home. These are the Ravens, home to the most vicious and fearsome defense (just ask them) in the league.

There's no time for crying when you can mock the fallen Patriots down the hall, taunt them with the beating they just delivered.

"These are the most arrogant pricks in the world, starting with [coach Bill] Belichick on down," Suggs declared. "Tell them to have fun at the Pro Bowl. Arrogant [expletive]."

He wasn't done.

"That's funny, ever since Spygate, they can't seem to get it done," he said in a mock tone to no one in particular. "I don't know what it is."

But then this is where it recalibrates and maybe this is Lewis' influence, maybe this is why this works so perfectly, why Baltimore could become the first team to trail Brady at the half up here and come out on top, ending a streak of 67 victories.

Lewis is about respect, not disrespect. He is about honor, not anger. He is about the love of the fight and that means loving the fighters who offer the challenge. If Suggs keeps the Lewis young, then Lewis, by force of example, makes Suggs consider maturity.

So yes, soon Suggs was calmer, sitting down and whispering in a respectful tone that Brother Ray would so approve.

"People don't like them because they win," Suggs said of the Pats. "They are a great team. And they have every right to be who they are. And we respect them. It's a rivalry, it's heated, you know, but even enemies can show respect.

"All b.s. aide, all ego and arrogance aside, that is one hell of a ball [club]," he continued. "I'm speaking to you with so much humility … If we went through somebody else, it wouldn't have been the same game. Yeah it's a rivalry between them and us, between me and 12. Any other team this win would've been unjustified. Who 12 is. Who their head coach is. Who their owner is.

"We have the utmost respect for them."

This is what Lewis means to the Ravens, means to all of Baltimore. Standing there in the locker room, celebrating with the Ravens, was Micheal Phelps, the all-time most decorated Olympian. On this night, he was just a delirious Baltimore kid. "This is worth giving up a gold medal," he said. He'd been through tough times in training, tough times in his personal life, times so tough he thought of quitting. He credits Lewis for talking him through so much of it, the teacher you can't disappoint.

"He is a very powerful man," Phelps said. "A very passionate man. I wouldn't have been able to [swim in the 2012 Olympics] without him. And he's been telling me, 'One more shot, one more shot, we're going to have it.'

"And he did it."

Lewis himself was in his typical mode, in awe-of-it-all, blessed, he said, in ways he couldn't fathom, here by the grace of the Lord.

"Honestly," he said, "God is so amazing. If you're in that locker room, there's something special about that locker room. And every man looks at each other and there's a certain type of love that we have for each other.

"And for me to come out and say that this is my last ride and for me now to be headed back to the Super Bowl, for the possibility of me possibly winning a second ring, how else do you cap off a career?"

How do you cap it off? Well, Suggs had some ideas, more sing-a-longs, more shout-outs, more outrageousness.

"Unfortunately, none of our Pro Bowlers will be able to go," Suggs noted.

"Sizzle," Lewis said to Suggs, using his nickname, "you can't make it."

Ray started singing the old Eddie Money song, "Two Tickets to Paradise" while slipping on a suit. Suggs wore basketball shorts and had preferred a different chant.

"The Ravens … " he sang into the Foxborough air.

"The Ravens," Lewis repeated.

"… are going to the Super Bowl … " Suggs continued.

"The Super Bowl," Lewis said.

There was a beat of silence. Two different personalities, two similar players, side-by-side from field to locker room now headed to New Orleans, this wild last ride just rolling on. They stared at each other and laughed.

"Damn sweetest words you'll ever hear," Suggs said.

"Indeed," Ray concluded.

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Ray Lewis' Super Bowl Return Has Ravens LB Emotional

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Ray Lewis' makeup was running. It was eye black, actually, that dark, oily greasepaint football players smear under their eyes to cut down on glare, but which Lewis has begun using to fashion a fearsome facemask for himself. And somewhere amid all those hugs on the field and a few tears in the locker room, it had already turned into a mess.

Lewis was sitting on a table in the Ravens' training room following a 28-13 win over the Patriots that punched his ticket back to the Super Bowl. He pulled off his gloves first, then the nylon skull cap he wears under his helmet, staring straight ahead, enjoying a quiet moment by himself.

Then Terrell Suggs, his sidekick and fellow linebacker, burst into room bellowing, "The Ravens are going to the Super Bowl!" It was as though somebody threw a switch.

"Say it again," Lewis looked up and said, just above a whisper.

Suggs complied.

"Again!" Lewis hissed, a little louder this time, and began clapping his hands over his head in accompaniment.

Then he rubbed his eyes – as if checking to make sure he wasn't just imagining the scene. And just like that, the eyeblack that began the night covering his cheekbones now adorned his chin like a beard.

"We're built a certain way and we've got each other's backs, through it all," Lewis said. He savored the moment, remembering how the Ravens left New England a year ago, eliminated in this same AFC championship game after former kicker Billy Cundiff's 32-yard field goal attempt hooked wide left.
"Last year when we walked up out of here, I told them, I said, `We'll be back. Don't hold your heads down because we've got something to finish.' "

That won't be for two more weeks, at the Super Bowl against the 49ers in New Orleans, but win or lose, Lewis will be finished. A tough guy playing a position where toughness is a given, he defied the odds by lasting 17 seasons and all of them with the same club that drafted him.

Lewis doesn't dominate games the way he used to, crushing running backs and making every tackle sound like it does on a video game. Yet the numbers don't lie, and just as he has throughout Baltimore's improbable run, Lewis led the Ravens in solo tackles and assists, 14 combined on this night. At 37, he's also been on the field for more snaps than any other defender.

Yet Lewis' leadership is more than his stats, more than his awkward dance out of the tunnel, more than the hoarse pregame speeches he gives in the last huddle before leading his teammates onto the field.

"There's so many things you can say about Ray, but the thing you don't see just watching the games is how much work he puts in," backup linebacker Paul Kruger said. "And not just his own business. He wants the kickers to be pros in how they go about their business in practice, the linemen, the skill guys – it doesn't matter to Ray.

"A lot of guys outside this locker room have been talking about how we're all playing for Ray, and that's true," he continued. "But playing for Ray means playing for yourself, too, and playing for the team, because that's what he cares about most.

"So yeah," Kruger said. "You could say we're playing for Ray. But what that means to us is that nobody wants to be the guy who lets him down."

That wasn't a problem Sunday night, at least not once the Ravens took the Patriots' measure. After nosing in front 13-7 by halftime, Baltimore's defense stiffened and held New England scoreless the rest of the way.

"Second half, baby, was 21-0!" Suggs screamed in the next locker over from Lewis. "My wife told me, baby, quit watching tape and come to bed, you're going to win by 10. And she was only off by five points!"

Lewis looked over at his teammate and covered his mouth to stop from laughing out loud.

Though it wouldn't hurt, Lewis doesn't need another Super Bowl, let alone another Pro Bowl, to secure his legacy. At least not the football portion of it.
Lewis won the NFL's biggest prize once already, in 2000, and was named MVP in that game to boot. He's been picked for the Pro Bowl 13 times.

But a trip back to the big game will carry echoes of his last trip there, a year after Lewis was charged in a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub a year earlier. Under an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and testified against his two former co-defendants. Neither was convicted, and Lewis eventually reached undisclosed cash settlements with the victims' families.

Lewis worked hard to rebuild his reputation, eventually working his way back into the graces of the NFL. Humbled, he volunteered to speak at rookie orientation sessions and slowly won back the kind of respect that had nothing to do with his play on the field.

"Ray's a guy that's turned everything over," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's surrendered everything and he's become the man that he is to this day. He's a different man than he was when he was 22 or 15 or whatever. I think everybody sees that right now. I think it's a great thing for kids to see. It's a great thing for fathers to see. It's a great thing for athletes to see.

"It's," Harbaugh said, "a very special deal."

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Watch Ray Lewis' Emotions Flow Right Before AFC Champ Game

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Ravens extend Ray Lewis' ride, beat Patriots for Super Bowl berth

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A week after hushing his critics with a big comeback win in Denver, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco quieted the crowd at Gillette Stadium. Now, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis can take his retirement party to New Orleans, and coach Jim Harbaugh can take on his brother in Super Bowl XLVII.

Flacco threw for three touchdowns on three consecutive second-half drives Sunday as the Ravens beat the Patriots 28-13 for a trip to Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens' 2011 season ended here in the AFC Championship Game with a loss in final seconds. They also lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the conference final in the 2008 season.

"It's crazy. This is my fifth year here, and this is the third one of these games that we've played in, and this in the first one we've won," said Flacco. "These are tough games to win, but we played together well as a team today."

In the final seconds of that 23-20 loss here last season, a potential winning touchdown pass by Flacco was stripped away in the end zone, and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal for Baltimore. Did that experience make this all the sweeter for Flacco?

"I think it's pretty sweet having won one of these AFC championships. It's probably pretty sweet no matter how you do it and no matter what fashion it is in," said Flacco, who hit 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards and no interceptions a week after rallying Baltimore to a 38-35 overtime win against the Denver Broncos.

Baltimore, which won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season in its only previous trip to the NFL's ultimate game, struggled down the stretch in the regular season.

Lewis, who has announced he will retire after 17 NFL seasons at age 37, missed the last 10 games of the regular season with a torn triceps in his right arm. He's returned in the playoffs to inspire a Baltimore defense that held Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to one touchdown pass with two interceptions.

"How else do you cap off a career?" said Lewis, a Raven since 1996. "How else do you honor your fans and give them everything that they cheer for? Baltimore is one of the most loyal places since 1996 that I've ever been around. And the greatest reward you can ever give to them is another chance at the Super Bowl. The last ride, I can only tell you, I am along for the ride."

The Patriots had been 4-0 in AFC title games at home.

"They just outplayed us and outcoached us tonight," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "They just made more plays than we did, and it was pretty much the story."

To no avail, Brady hit 29 of 54 passes for 320 yards and became the NFL's all-time leader in postseason passing with 5,949 yards. Brady's last pass was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Cary Williams with just over a minute left.

"We got behind in the second half and became one dimensional, just couldn't string enough plays together,'' Brady said. "Whatever we did, we didn't execute very well. … We didn't earn it. They earned it."

Surely, the Ravens wanted to send Lewis out in style. But it went way beyond that.

"We all want to win the Super Bowl," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "Ray isn't the only guy here. … We all know this is his last shot. But we have (safety) Ed Reed, he's never been to a Super Bowl. Terrell Suggs, Anquan Boldin never won one. … We all play for each other."

John Harbaugh echoed that.

"Coaches and players working together to make each other better. … That's been our mantra," Harbaugh said.

Flacco, now 8-4 as a starter in the playoffs in five seasons, outplayed Brady a year ago in the AFC championship only to lose at the finish. This time, Flacco took the final suspense out of it in the second half.

When Baltimore was losing four of its last five in the regular season, Flacco took heat on the radio talk shows in Baltimore, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired and replaced by assistant Jim Caldwell, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

The Baltimore offense clicked in the playoffs, though Flacco didn't look back on what's happened quite that way.

"I think we've been playing like that all year," Flacco said. " … People lose during the football season. We had a couple of bad losses, but we really rebounded from them really good. We had a couple of losses in there that were really close, and, hey, that just happens sometimes."

Now, the Ravens are Super Bowl bound.

"We came here to win the game. It wasn't a secret," said Boldin, who caught two of Flacco's touchdown passes.

"We came in here last year and left with a bitter taste in our mouths. … We get great pleasure out of coming to Foxborough and doing it here."

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proCanes Represent More Than Any Other School on NFL Championship Weekend

In all, as many as 212 players will participate in the AFC and NFC championship games on Sunday – four teams, 53 players per team. When including players not on the active rosters of the four teams playing for a shot at the Super Bowl, however, the total jumps to more than 250.

The schools represented on the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens range from college football's elite (Alabama, Ohio State, Texas and Florida) to those situated far outside the national picture (Hillsdale, Bellhaven, Lane and Indiana).

Here are the eight schools most represented by the four teams playing Sunday for a trip to the Super Bowl:

1. Miami (Fla.): 12. P Matt Bosher, OL Harland Gunn, DL Micanor Regis (Atlanta); LB Tavares Gooden, RB Frank Gore (San Francisco); DL Vince Wilfork, DL Marcus Forston (New England); LB Ray Lewis, OL Bryant McKinnie, RB Damien Berry, WR Tommy Streeter, S Ed Reed (Baltimore).

2. (tie) Oregon: 7. WR Drew Davis (Atlanta); RB LaMichael James, FB Will Tukuafu (San Francisco); TE Ed Dickson, DL Haloti Ngata, QB Dennis Dixon (Baltimore).

2. (tie) Florida: 7. LB Mike Peterson (Atlanta); DL Ray McDonald (San Francisco); DL Jermaine Cunningham, RB Jeff Demps, TE Aaron Hernandez, LB Brandon Spikes (New England); WR Deonte Thompson (Baltimore).

4. (tie) Alabama: 6. OL Mike Johnson, WR Julio Jones (Atlanta); DL Brandon Deaderick, LB Dont'a Hightower (New England); DL Terrence Cody, LB Courtney Upshaw (Baltimore).

4. (tie) Iowa: 6. DL Jonathan Babineaux (Atlanta); LB Jeff Tarpinian, TE Brad Herman, OL Markus Zusevics (New England); S Sean Considine, OL Marshal Yanda (Baltimore).

4. (tie) Texas: 6. OL Justin Blalock (Atlanta); CB Tarell Brown, OL Leonard Davis (San Francisco); OL Kyle Hix (New England); CB Chykie Brown, K Justin Tucker (Baltimore).

4. (tie) South Carolina: 6. DL John Abraham, DL Cliff Matthews, DL Travian Robertson, CB Dunta Robinson (Atlanta); S Emanuel Cook, CB Chris Culliver (Baltimore).

4. (tie) Ohio State: 6. OL Alex Boone, WR Ted Ginn Jr., LB Larry Grant, S Donte Whitner (San Francisco); TE Jake Ballard, S Nate Ebner (New England).
Another eight schools have five players on the rosters: Arizona State, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, UCF, Rutgers, Syracuse and Illinois.

Teams with four players: Oklahoma State, Marshall, Michigan, Fresno State, Utah, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Louisville, LSU and Georgia Tech.

Three players: Auburn, Wisconsin, Maryland, California, Wake Forest, Florida State, Penn State, Kansas, Purdue, Northwestern, Texas Tech and Arkansas.

Two players: Baylor, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College, Clemson, Connecticut, ECU, Oregon State, Richmond, San Jose State, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Northern Illinois, TCU, UCLA, Notre Dame, Central Michigan, Delaware, Iowa State, Colorado, Tennessee State, Nebraska, Buffalo, Arizona and Washburn.

Luck of the draw plays a role, of course, but it's a bit surprising to see that schools like Virginia Tech, USC, Oklahoma and Texas A&M only have one player each on the four rosters. Not surprising? That one player represents schools like Prairie View A&M, Lane, Harvard, Weber State, Chadron State (Danny Woodhead), Hillsdale and Hofstra (which no longer has a football program).

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Ray Lewis, Bill Belichick Almost On same Side

It is as it should be: Ray Lewis' Ravens and Bill Belichick's Patriots meet Sunday night to decide the AFC champion in what could be the final game for one of the greatest players in NFL history.

And if it wasn't for Belichick, Lewis would not be in Baltimore.

Follow along. Belichick was the Browns' coach in 1995, when Cleveland traded a No. 1 pick to San Francisco in exchange for several picks. The 49ers used the 10th overall pick, which they got from Cleveland, on UCLA wide receiver J.J. Stokes.

But Belichick never got to use the second No. 1 pick he got back from San Francisco. Before he could, Cleveland fired him and moved the franchise to Baltimore, which inherited the 1996 first-round pick that Belichick had acquired from San Francisco.

Baltimore used its own first-round pick in 1996 on UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. Then it used its second first-round pick, the one Belichick acquired from the 49ers, on Miami linebacker Ray Lewis. Baltimore believed, accurately and wisely, that in one draft it had acquired building blocks for its defense and offense.

The other irony to the pick was that Lewis nearly wound up with Belichick anyway. After Cleveland fired Belichick, New England and its coach, Bill Parcells, hired him as defensive coordinator in 1996. One of the Patriots' missions that offseason was to upgrade their linebackers.

So on a spring day in 1996, Belichick flew to Miami and spent nearly a full day watching game tape with Lewis, having him read and react to defensive plays, getting to know him in case New England wanted to draft him. And it did -- in the second round. But before Lewis could slide to the Patriots' spot in that round, the Ravens drafted him in the first round with the 26th overall selection -- with the pick Belichick had acquired for Cleveland from San Francisco.

New England then opted to use its third-round pick on another linebacker, Arizona's Tedy Bruschi. It is another sign of the funny bounces football sometimes takes, affecting lives and legacies.

As Baltimore and New England each stand 60 minutes from New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII, the ultimate irony is how much Belichick has to do with the Ravens being positioned where they are. Without Belichick, Lewis would not have spent 17 memorable seasons in Baltimore.

Now the two men get to spend one more evening together, with the AFC championship at stake.

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Ray Lewis treasures more in life than Super Bowl win

Reuters) - Ray Lewis knows exactly how he wants to end his storied 17-year National Football League (NFL) career, but the Baltimore Ravens linebacker prefers to measure his life by more than gridiron results.

Lewis yearns to raise the Lombardi Trophy for a second time and needs a road win over the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC championship game to reach his first Super Bowl since the Ravens' triumph in 2001.

The 37-year-old inspirational leader of the Ravens, and 13-time Pro Bowl selection, said he has told team mates about the sweeetest words he has ever heard on the job.

"How can you top the moment of hearing those famous words, 'Ravens have won the Super Bowl.' When you play the game, that is what you play the game for. You play and hope that one day you hear those words," Lewis told reporters during a conference call on Thursday.

"That is what I am trying to get this team to go back and hear one more time. So they can really feel what it feels like. Because once you hear it, like I tell all of them, your life will never be the same again.

"Once you are a champion, you are always a champion, and that is probably one of the greatest things I will remember of all time."

Yet the man who founded the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation to help underprivileged youth in Baltimore keeps the job of football in perspective.

"Off the field, it's just impacting lives ... success is one thing; I've always believed impact is another. To go out in the communities and change someone's life, for real change their life, I believe that's what all of our jobs should be one day."

Many Ravens are rallying to send Lewis off on a high note.

"We are dealing with always a ‘last' around here. This is Ray Lewis's last hurrah," said Baltimore's running-receiving threat Ray Rice.

"Our General, our Captain - this is it for him. If you want to call it riding that emotional high, of course we are, because we are dealing with something that is going to be a last. We would like to send him out the right way."

Even the Patriots paid respect to Lewis.

"It's really a pleasure to play against him," said New England's Tom Brady, who has won more NFL playoff games than any other quarterback (17).

"He's really been so consistent over the years and durable and tough. He's so instinctive. He doesn't give up hardly any plays, makes a ton of tackles."

Patriots' nose tackle Vince Wilfork also paid tribute.

"When you talk about football, especially defense, the first person you think about is that guy. What he brings to the team. What he brings to the game. The love and the passion that he has for the game," said Wilfork.

Lewis said the winning or losing was not most important.

"I think the greatest thing you can ever be remembered for is the impact and things that you had on other people," he said.

"At the end of the day, with all of the men that I've been around, to one day look back here and listen to men say, ‘He was one of people who helped changed my life,' is probably one of the greatest legacies to be remembered for."

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(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue yahoo.com)

Vince Wilfork to set aside collegial feelings for Ray Lewis in AFC Championship

FOXBOROUGH --- Vince Wilfork spoke glowingly about his fellow University of Miami alumnus, Ray Lewis, when the veteran Baltimore Ravens linebacker announced before the start of the AFC playoffs that this season would be his last.

Lewis missed 10 games this season but returned from a torn triceps and gave the fourth-seeded Ravens an emotional charge in their victories at Cincinnati in the wild-card round and at top-seeded Denver in the divisional round to earn a rematch against the Patriots in the AFC title game.

"When you talk about football, especially defense, the first person you really think about is that guy,'' Wilfork said of Lewis. "What he brings to the team, what he brings to the game, the love and the passion he has for the game.

"It just goes to show you when he came back,it's a new ballclub in Baltimore,'' Wilfork said. "They feed of him because he's their leader, and that city feeds off of him. We have to do a real good job of making sure they don't feed too much off of him in this game because it'll already be tough, but to come in on the emotional high they're on after winning two big games in the playoffs, it's going to be tough.

"You can never question that man's level of execution,'' Wilfork said. "It's unbelievable.''

Lewis served as a mentor to a generation of Miami Hurricane football players, Wilfork included.

"We bleed Orange and Green,'' Wilfork said. "I love to see my guys around the league. It just shows you that we have something special down there [at the University of Miami]. We have mutual respect but at the end of the day, I want to win and he wants to win. We're always competitive.

"Hurricane or no Hurricane, I'm a New England Patriot and I want to win, plain and simple,'' Wilfork said. "I'm pretty sure being in Baltimore, he wants to win. However long it takes, we're going to battle our tails off and after the game we're going to wish each other luck.''

Win or lose, Wilfork expected to visit with Lewis and give him his proper respect.

"Hopefully, with that guy going out, just want to let him know what he meant to this game, because he meant a lot to this game,'' Wilfork said.

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VIDEO: Baltimore hotel fires up a well-choreographed Ray Lewis-themed laser show

Thank you to proCane fan @VicinoB for directing us to this video.

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Ray Lewis has proved to be a factor in Ravens' 2 playoff games

Ray Lewis' trademark instincts kicked in again Saturday, a display of football savvy punctuated by the Ravens inside linebacker slamming Denver Broncos rookie running back Ronnie Hillman to the ground.

During the third quarter of the Ravens' dramatic 38-35 double-overtime victory in the AFC divisional round, Lewis eluded the blocking attempt of towering offensive tackle Ryan Clady to chase down Hillman for a loss of three yards.

As the retiring two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year tries to end his legendary career by earning a second Super Bowl ring, Lewis isn't just along for the ride. Heading into Sunday's AFC championship game against the New England Patriots, the 37-year-old leads the Ravens with 30 tackles through two playoff games.

Besides the emotional impact that Lewis has provided since returning from a torn right triceps that required surgery and sidelined him for 10 games, he's also pulling his weight on the field.

"He's a guy that still plays the game at a high level," Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones said. "You would think he was 21, 22, watching him out there, flying around, making plays. Why not play hard for a guy like that? It makes you so comfortable on defense to know that you have a guy behind you that's a stud, that's going to make such a huge play and can make so many plays. I told him to stay a few more years."

Although Lewis has to wear a bulky brace to protect his right arm and is no longer as mobile as he used to be in pass coverage and in pursuit of runs outside the tackles, he's still making an impact. Lewis made a game-high 17 tackles against the Broncos after finishing with 13 tackles during a 24-9 wild-card win over the Indianapolis Colts in his emotional final game at M&T Bank Stadium.

"He's so instinctive, he doesn't give up hardly any plays, makes a ton of tackles," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "He's really a playmaker for them. You see when he makes a play, their whole sideline gets really amped up. You always have to know where No. 52 is at."

Despite how he's performed this postseason, Lewis insists he has no intentions of changing his mind about his decision to walk away from the game after 17 seasons. And teammates and team officials have reiterated that Lewis is serious about his pending retirement and won't reverse his decision like former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre repeatedly did.

"No, I can't come back," Lewis said Wednesday. "My kids are calling for Daddy. It's a great reward to see the sacrifice my babies have made for me, and it's time that I sacrifice for them. I'm proud that the ride is still going.

"After the Denver game, me and Ray [Rice] just sat there and we hugged on the field. He grabbed me kind of hard. I was telling him to let me go, but it's just something that's special. To end it, wherever it ends, then so be it."

Lewis' final ride isn't over yet, though.

The Ravens square off with the Patriots on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, the same place where they fell short last year in the AFC title game.
And Lewis regards this latest encounter with Brady as an appropriate scenario.

"If you write it up, there's no better way to write it up," he said. "We all felt the same way leaving there last year, that we had an opportunity to win that game. If you were going to go to the Super Bowl, then go back at New England again.

"We know each other very well. Every game we play is always those classic games. It comes down to that last play, that last drive. I think they know what we are bringing, and we know what they bring."

Lewis clearly still has an innate feel for diagnosing plays. On Saturday alertly pounced on a ball that Peyton Manning fumbled, but the recovery was nullified by a penalty.

"He definitely can play multiple more years, but I think he understands that it's time to move on," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "It's just great to see him play at a level that I don't think a lot of linebackers can be doing now. I'm just humbled and definitely lucky to play with someone like that."

However, Lewis allowed eight receptions for 97 yards on eight passes thrown in his direction in Denver. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis has surrendered 14 receptions for 177 yards on 16 throws in his direction during the two playoff games, with quarterback compiling a 105.9 passer rating against him.

It's an understandable regression for an older player still playing at an age when most linebackers have long since hung up their cleats. Overall, though, the reviews for Lewis' play have been solid.

He's been particularly clutch in 19 career playoff games with 215 career tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and five forced fumbles.

"Ray has played well, that's the most important thing," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And he still can play. He's been playing at a high level for 17 years. He's a top linebacker in the game right now, at this very moment, so he's made a difference for us."

The mere fact that Lewis is back on a football field at his age following such a serious injury has amazed his teammates, and in the locker room he is spoken of with reverence.

"He's still got it," said outside linebacker Albert McClellan, who grew up in Lewis' hometown of Lakeland, Fla. "He's still running around. People are still afraid of a head-on collision with Ray. He's a threat on the field with his thinking ability and the way he knows the game."

After 2,643 regular-season tackles, 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions, 20 forced fumbles and 20 fumble recoveries, Lewis wants to end his ride in New Orleans with another Super Bowl. That's why he endured a grueling rehabilitation regimen to get his arm healthy enough for one more run at a Lombardi Trophy.

"I think one thing Ray is doing is he's showing people, 'I can overcome,'" strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "He's showing, 'I can do what you say I can't do.'"

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Ray Lewis dominating as retirement looms

OWINGS MILLS, Md.  — Ray Lewis sure doesn't look the part of an aging linebacker on the brink of retirement.

After being sidelined for 12 weeks with a torn right triceps, Lewis reclaimed his post in the middle of the Baltimore defense two weeks ago and led the Ravens with 13 tackles in a 24-9 playoff win over Indianapolis.

As an encore, Lewis had a team-high 17 tackles last week in a victory over Denver.

The 37-year-old Lewis intends to retire after the Ravens' complete a playoff run that continues Sunday with the AFC title game in New England.

Some wonder if Lewis might change his mind because he's playing so well. He remains adamant that he will stay the course.

Lewis says, "No, I can't come back. My kids are calling for Daddy."

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Tom Brady Recognizes How Ray Lewis Can Get Ravens ‘Amped Up,’ Says Patriots Always Have to Know Where He Is

For those who are fans of when Tom Brady gets worked up and starts calling out his fellow Patriots, the unfiltered version of such passion will be on full display Sunday.

Ray Lewis has brought emotion and intensity to every game he’s ever played, but it’s been at another level for the last two games, now that Lewis has announced that he is retiring once this season is over. With Sunday’s AFC Championship Game possibly being his last, Lewis is sure to be fired up — and Brady knows what that can mean.

“You see when he makes a play, their whole sideline gets really amped up,” Brady explained. Brady was lauding Lewis and preaching the importance of keeping an eye on him as the Patriots chatted Wednesday about Sunday’s game. The Ravens and Patriots have been seeing a lot of each other in recent years, including New England’s win in the AFC Championship Game last year, and Brady knows what to look for with Lewis. “It’s really a pleasure to play against him,” Brady said.

“He’s really been so consistent over the years, and durable and tough. He’s so instinctive. He doesn’t take off hardly any plays, makes a ton of tackles, he’s great in the pass game, he’s great in the run game.

Whatever they choose, he’s really a playmaker for them, so they give him an opportunity to make those plays.”

Brady also gave a similar compliment to Lewis as he and coach Bill Belichick have given to fellow Ravens defensive standout Ed Reed in the past, saying that the Patriots always have to know where Lewis is in on the field on every play. Even with the injury that sidelined him for most of this season and retirement looming, Lewis has proven to be a force. What could be really fun is if he turns out to be enough of a force that the Patriots and Ravens go down to the wire, and Brady has to start calling out his teammates again.

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Ray Lewis of Ravens: 'No better way to write it up'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- This was the game the Baltimore Ravens have wanted for 12 months. Now that they've got an AFC Championship rematch with the Patriots, linebacker Ray Lewis said if they don't come away with a win, everything they've done to get to this point will be irrelevant.

"If you write it up, there's no better way to write it up," he said. "We all felt the same way leaving there last year. We had an opportunity to win that game, and what better way to go back to the Super Bowl than to go back at New England again?"

When they left Gillette Stadium after losing last season's AFC Championship game by a wayward field goal attempt, every Raven was in disbelief and disarray.
Kicker Billy Cundiff was shell-shocked. Defensive lineman Terrell Suggs was dumbfounded. Quarterback Joe Flacco was unsatisfied. Lewis, as usual, was inspirational, telling his teammates they would be here again.

"I just think going back to last year, we made up our mind that that wasn't it for us," Lewis said. "That's just kind of how the seasons go. For us to be back here again, same position, same situation, who would have ever thought of it?"

This will be the third time the Ravens and Patriots have faced each other in the playoffs since 2010.

"We know each other very well," Lewis said. "And every game we play is always those classic games that come down to that last play, that last drive."

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Ray Lewis’s last run fuels Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl bid — or does it?

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Lewis, for so long, has leaned on the emotional and spiritual elements of football, life and their intersection. Those are what have pushed him to this, the end of his 17th season, the end of his career. He has either one more game — Sunday’s AFC championship game at New England — or two, if his Baltimore Ravens win and advance to the Super Bowl. Swirl all the emotions and spirits together, all that Lewis has meant to his franchise and his city, and it could seem a combustible combination.

“I’ve just been in this calm state,” Lewis said Wednesday, “because at the end of the day, nothing matters unless we go win in New England this week.”

Yet as the Ravens approach the game that will either end Lewis’s career or extend it again, it might be worth casting spirituality aside and leaning on science. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation. Lewis missed the final 10 games of the Ravens’ regular season with a torn triceps, and Baltimore stumbled to the finish, losing four of its final five. Before he returned for the playoffs, Lewis announced he would retire whenever the season ended. In his two appearances since, Baltimore handled Indianapolis at home and then surprised Denver on the road to reach this point.

So along the way has come a predictable yearning to connect Lewis’s final season to Baltimore’s position in the AFC title game, a connection that is inescapable around the Ravens this week even though some Baltimore players say the entire premise is dubious.

“You guys ask so many questions about it, you make a big deal about it,” quarterback Joe Flacco said to an auditorium full of media members Wednesday. “. . .When we’re out there playing on Sunday, that’s the last thing we’re really thinking about.”

As wide receiver Torrey Smith said: “People always say, ‘You want to win it for Ray. You want to win it for Ray.’ We do. But you want to win it for yourself, too. You know what I mean? People kind of forget about that.”

There is no way, around here, to forget about Lewis, regarded as one of the best linebackers ever — 13 times a Pro Bowler, seven times first-team all-pro. His presence has defined the organization for as long as the organization has existed. Wednesday, he recounted the call he received on draft day, 1996, from Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens’ general manager, then and now. His first questions: Do we have a team name? Do we have team colors?

Now, the purple-and-black of the Ravens are part of the fabric of Baltimore. A portion of a street has been renamed “Ray Lewis Way.” His No. 52 jersey rivals the orange-and-black No. 8 worn by Baltimore’s immovable icon, former Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken. Throw him in with Johnny Unitas and Brooks Robinson, both athletic deities here.

“Who knew that I would be a staple in Baltimore?” Lewis said.

And who knew he would go out this way? When the Ravens lost three straight games to start December, they appeared to be losing their grip on the AFC North. The question then became, “Will Lewis ever play again?” But because of the spirituality, the emotion, that guide him, Lewis said he felt he would be back, that the Ravens would be back.

Last year, when the Ravens lost the AFC title game at New England in a game they could have won — if not for Lee Evans’s dropped pass in the end zone and Billy Cundiff’s shanked short field goal — Lewis gave a rousing speech in the locker room, because giving rousing speeches in the locker room long ago became part of his job description. He told his teammates they would be back. But whether they did or not, he said his teammates shouldn’t let that fate define them.

“Don’t let this game ever dictate your emotions,” Lewis said Wednesday. “When you walk out of this locker room, somebody’s looking for you to be the bigger person. Yeah, we lost this game, but it’s not life.”

At 37, so much of his life has been about football. And yet, that is what’s being overlooked now. Wednesday, New England quarterback Tom Brady discussed the challenges of facing the Ravens with reporters in Foxborough, Mass. “You always have to know where ‘52’ is at,” Brady said.

Lewis had 13 tackles against Indianapolis, 17 more against Denver in a game that went to double overtime.

“That’s the most important thing: He can still play,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s been playing at a high level for 17 years. He’s a top linebacker in the game right now, at this very moment.”

Because of that, and because the Ravens have pushed this deep into the playoffs for the third time in the past five years, Lewis was asked whether he has reconsidered his retirement. “No,” he said firmly.

“I always said to myself I would know when it’s time,” he said.

So this is the time. Whether that is a contributing factor in the Ravens’ appearance here — whether Point A can be connected to Point B — can be debated, but it cannot be determined.

“Our general, our captain, this is it,” running back Ray Rice said. “If you want to call it riding that emotional high, the emotions and everything — of course we are, because we’re dealing with something that’s going to be a last.”

Whether that last game comes Sunday or in the Super Bowl, Lewis is clearly relishing it. He will be in the center of a huddle Sunday, his teammates gathered round, and he will bark words to them that likely will be picked up by a television camera and broadcast to the football-loving public. Will the Ravens prevail because he is doing that for one of the final times? Who knows?

“It’s something that’s special,” he said. “To end it, whenever it ends, so be it.”

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Willis, Ray Lewis watched Falcons-Seahawks ending on Facetime

While the Atlanta Falcons’ pulled out Sunday’s win and advanced to face the 49ers for the NFC Championship, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis watched the dramatic ending with Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis through their phones’ FaceTime application.

“I was on my way home, he FaceTimed me and we watching the end and how crazy it was,” Willis said on 95.7 The Game.

If the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens win their respective conference finals Sunday, Willis and Lewis will be able to see each other in person in New Orleans at Super Bowl XLVII. They’ll be the guys wearing No. 52.

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Ray Lewis Video: Watch Emotional Linebacker Celebrate After Ravens' Win

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Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning share special moment after Broncos-Ravens playoff classic

DENVER – Inside the empty locker room Peyton Manning hugged Ray Lewis.

This was long after the great double-overtime playoff game had finished Saturday evening, after Lewis had left the field and the near-zero temperatures, victorious. This was also after Lewis had wept at his locker, eye black rolling down his face. And this was even after he showered, dressed slowly in a suit, did a news conference and a television interview that went longer than promised.

Manning undoubtedly wanted to go home, yet the Denver Broncos quarterback waited somberly inside a deserted Baltimore Ravens locker room. Beside him was his wife Ashley and their nearly 2-year-old son Marshall. Saturday's defeat had to be one of the most agonizing of Manning's career – a 38-35 loss in a game he was 38 seconds from winning – and still the Mannings stood in front of the empty locker of Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody for a long, long time Saturday evening.

They did this because it was Ray Lewis.

Because in his last days of football, the Ravens linebacker won't walk silently into the night.

"I'm so happy for you," Ashley Manning said as Lewis finally walked into the room.

Then Peyton Manning and Lewis talked quietly, their voices mostly muffled but the tone obvious and admiring. If Peyton Manning wasn't going to go to the Super Bowl it was clear he wanted Ray Lewis to be the one who did.

The Ravens won't crumble in these playoffs. The team that looked lost the last few weeks of the season has come to life in the postseason, since Lewis, their star linebacker, came back from a triceps injury that was supposed to have ended his season. Now that he has returned and said his career will end when the season does, it is as if the Ravens have gathered behind him in one last desperate push for a Super Bowl that has eluded them since they won their only championship in 2001.

They were supposed to lose to the Broncos on Saturday. They were done when they got the ball on their own 23-yard line with 1:09 left in regulation, trailing 35-28. Then quarterback Joe Flacco, the one who has endured so much scorn in Baltimore, heaved a long pass to receiver Jacoby Jones, who grabbed the ball from the frosty air and ran to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown that tied the game. They survived an entire overtime until they hit the winning field goal less than two minutes into the second overtime. And all of it seems so much like something that is bigger than them all.

All week Lewis had challenged his teammates. He told them not to listen to the voices outside their practice facility in the Baltimore suburbs. He called on them to remember all the injuries they endured in a season where starter after starter went down. He told them he had a dream they would bond together and fight through significant odds and win a championship.

Then before they left the locker room on Saturday afternoon he quoted the Bible.

"No weapon formed against us shall prosper," he said.

At halftime he brought the players together, made them touch each other and repeat the same phrase.

"The whole day I just needed my team to keep reciting: 'No weapon,' " he said later. "The energy is crazy, the emotions are crazy, but to stay the course the way this team stayed the course, I tip my hat off to my team."

The players do not speak openly about Lewis' impending retirement and the motivation it appears to have rendered. They say this run is bigger than him. Head coach John Harbaugh agreed on Saturday, pinching his fingers about an inch apart when asked to quantify how much Lewis' retirement is driving the team. He too spoke of the Bible. He said he realized that talking about this will make people uncomfortable but he spoke as if Lewis' expressions of faith has become a unifying element in a room that a few weeks before might have been filled with doubt.

"There's a spirituality in here," Harbaugh said. "I can't describe it."

Perhaps such things are said on nights like Saturday, when victory is pulled from certain defeat. But there is also no doubt that the booming presence of Lewis stomping around the locker room has brought this team to life again. If Lewis is going to quote scripture, the Ravens are more than happy to buy in.

The last several days have allowed them to realize how much they love him. His retirement announcement stirred stories of the complex legacy of a trusted leader who also once was charged in a murder case. They have rallied behind him as this history has been discussed and maybe in this too they have come closer.

Lewis was sick all week. He had a fever. He coughed so many times he just wanted to collapse in bed. The last four days were awful, he later said in a small hallway beneath Sports Authority Stadium. But he kept pushing because he doesn't want to let go of his dream, for himself and for his team. He had 17 tackles Saturday, seven more than any other player on the field. "This one situation we just kept fighting and kept fighting," he said.

He talked about the embattled Flacco and said: "He grew up today."

"You're the general, lead us to victory," he said he told Flacco.

Then in the small hallway behind the Ravens' locker room, he leaned against a cinder block wall and smiled. He said he cried in the locker room after the game because he was exhausted from trying to convince his teammates to believe in his dream.

Then he closed his eyes. The television technicians fiddled with his suit jacket, clipping a microphone to the lapel. Someone reminded him that Manning was waiting and he wondered where.

"I'm missing a great moment with a great winner right now," he said to no one in particular.

And when the television people were done, he opened a door and walked back into the locker room, now empty, save for the Mannings. Ashley Manning pulled out her phone and asked for a picture. Her husband stood next to Lewis. Manning wore a gray overcoat. He looked sad. Lewis beamed, his smile wide. Manning's was smaller, more subdued.

They shook hands,  the great quarterback congratulating the leader of the Ravens who had inspired his defeat. Then they broke apart, heading in opposite directions: Manning to an offseason he probably still couldn't accept and Ray Lewis toward another week of football in the season that won't end.

Then off toward the bus Lewis walked. He pulled a suitcase. A Ravens official walked next to him and they laughed as they left the stadium with the impossible dream still very much alive.

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Ray Lewis to Joe Flacco: 'You're the General now'

Ray Lewis might not have the same physical impact on a football game as he once did, but there's little doubt his words do.

The retiring, future Hall of Fame linebacker, known as the "General" amongst teammates, had something to say to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco before Saturday's divisional-round playoff victory over the Denver Broncos.

"In the tunnel, I told him, 'You're the General now. Lead us to a victory. You will lead us today. I'm just here to facilitate things,' " Lewis said, according to the Ravens' official website.

Flacco went out and threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns. He's already the only quarterback in NFL history to reach the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. This will be his third conference championship. And he outplayed Peyton Manning.

Lewis also had a message during the week.

"I challenged my team this week to not listen to anything outside of our building to buy into who we are as a team, everything we've been through injury-wise," Lewis said, via The Baltimore Sun. "Now for us to be here, I think this will go down as one of the greatest victories in Ravens history.

"For us to come in here and win, underdogs, that's the beautiful thing about sports. That's the thing that I'll probably miss anything about my career, it will be to listen to what people say you can't do and then to go do it."

The Ravens have a little bit of juice right now. The Broncos had more than one chance to close the door but couldn't. Lewis was far from the most effective player on the field Saturday, but his words and the emotion surrounding his impending retirement seem to have given life to a team that lost four of five to close the regular season.

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VIDEO: Ray Lewis Tribute - In the Air Tonight Phil Collins

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Years later, murder case still echoes for Ray Lewis, families

For more than a decade, Priscilla Lollar struggled to face the realization that her son had been killed in a brawl outside an Atlanta nightclub.

But these days, her emotions are raw again, as one of the men charged in the slaying — Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis — attracts national attention for his impending retirement and the team's playoff run.

The brawl in the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 2000, left two young men from Akron, Ohio, dead from stab wounds. Lewis and two acquaintances were charged with murder, but the charge against Lewis was reduced to a less serious one in a plea deal, and his co-defendants were acquitted.

Lewis, who might be playing his last game Saturday, will retire after the playoffs as the most popular Raven in team history. But his legacy — Super Bowl MVP, one of the National Football League's best linebackers, two-time defensive player of the year — will include the footnote of the murder charges. Fans of opposing teams have taunted him by calling him a murderer, and some in the news media are discussing the case again.

Hyperbole over the incident has lessened, but may never fade. News outlets, including National Public Radio, the Orlando Sentinel and the popular sports website Deadspin, have written about it recently in light of Lewis' retirement. Opinions cover a wide spectrum, from those who say Lewis should no longer be tied to the murders to those who say the crime victims should not be forgotten.

Lewis and his teammates have said the experience matured him and made him eager to give back to the community. "Not only did it have a profound effect on the player he became, but it had a profound effect on the person he became," former teammate Shannon Sharpe said, noting Lewis' charitable work.

Lewis would not comment Thursday when asked about the incident. His trial attorney, Max Richardson, said this week that it should be left in the past because his client's name was cleared.

But if Lewis will be remembered as a hero by many fans in Baltimore and around the nation — his No. 52 has been the top-selling NFL jersey recently — in Akron, Priscilla Lollar tries to move on without thinking about him.

"I never did acknowledge [my son] being dead until last year," she said this week. "I wouldn't have wanted to live. I always felt that he was in Atlanta and he would be home soon and would call me soon. It was like that for years."

The Lollars have not been able to watch Lewis play on TV, and they maintain that his money and power gave him an advantage at trial.

"How can you understand something that is senseless?" Priscilla Lollar said. "There was no justice in anything. ..."

Thirteen years ago this month, Lewis and his friends were celebrating at a posh nightclub after Super Bowl XXXIV, won by the St. Louis Rams over the Tennessee Titans.

The group included Joseph Sweeting, 34, a music producer and promoter whom Lewis knew from his time at the University of Miami, and Reginald Oakley, 31, a former barber from Baltimore.

Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, childhood friends who had moved from Akron to the Atlanta area, were also partying at the Cobalt Lounge.

The two groups spilled out onto the streets about 3:30 a.m., and a member of Baker and Lollar's group traded words with Oakley.

"A Moet bottle smashed into the side of my head. ... I swung and he swung back and all hell broke loose around us," Oakley wrote in "Memories of Murder," a self-published book whose account mirrors trial testimony about the start of the street fight.

Amid the brawl, Lollar and Baker were stabbed and bled to death on the street. Someone fired shots at Lewis' limo as his group sped away.

Police arrested Lewis before the day was over, and the linebacker cried as he was read his rights.

Priscilla Lollar remembers her son as a creative child who liked to draw and sing. The oldest of nine, he was a talented barber whose brothers and sisters looked up to him, she said.

"You just wouldn't believe it," she said. "People would come for him to cut their hair, I would listen to them offering him $100 just to give them a fade."

Atlanta was supposed to be a new start for Baker and Lollar. Lollar had pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession. At the time of his death, Baker was being sought by police on charges of possession of cocaine and driving with an open container of alcohol; he had previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of improperly handling a firearm.

Lollar was 24 when he was killed, Baker just 21. Lollar had gone to Atlanta to work as a barber in a friend's shop, part of a wave of Akron men who went to the city at that time, his mother said. Richard's fiancee was pregnant, and his daughter, India, was born a couple of months after his death.

Baker's parents died before he was killed; an aunt, Vondie Boykin, declined to be interviewed about the brawl and its aftermath.

Priscilla Lollar said both families, and the mother of Richard's daughter, are trying to move on. They still don't know exactly what happened that night.

"I was in the dark on a lot of things," said Lollar. She said she did not attend the trial, although other members of the family went.

The trial in Fulton County did not go well for prosecutors. Some outside experts said at the time that the prosecution was sloppy and the charges against Lewis, Sweeting and Oakley had been rushed. Others noted that witnesses had changed their stories.

Two weeks into the trial, prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charges against Lewis if he would plead guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice and testify against Sweeting and Oakley, who had criminal records that included convictions for theft, burglary and resisting arrest. The obstruction-of-justice charge was related to Lewis' telling those who left in the limo after the fight that they should keep quiet about the incident.

Lewis testified that he tried to stop the fight and that Sweeting and Oakley bought knives the day before they ended up at the nightclub. Lewis testified that he asked Oakley later what happened. "I said this is all on me," Lewis told the court. "My career is over because you guys tripping."

After less than six hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Sweeting and Oakley; neither man could be reached for comment for this article. Lewis had a year of probation for the misdemeanor charge and was fined $250,000 by the National Football League for violating its conduct policy.

Sharpe, a Hall of Famer who joined the Ravens soon after Lewis was arrested, said this week that the two talked on numerous occasions that year about the experience.

"I'm sure he felt bad that two men lost their lives, tragically," Sharpe said. "His name will forever be attached to that. I told him ... a great portion of people will always remember you for what transpired in Atlanta; you can't change that, no matter if you win 10 Super Bowls."

Faye Lollar, Richard's aunt, says of Lewis: "I had to forgive him to start my life and live my life. Richard was a big part of our lives, for him to be taken so harsh, it was just devastating. Everybody's trying to go on with their lives. Ray don't even cross our minds."

Priscilla Lollar says justice will come eventually. "I trust in God that he's going to take care of it," she said. "I can't do nothing about it."

A few years after the incident, Lewis settled civil lawsuits with both families. Richard Lollar's daughter received about $1 million, according to news reports; the Bakers' settlement was not disclosed publicly. Police consider the case closed.

Lewis helped lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl win in the season that followed the trial, and he has been widely praised for his charitable work. His Ray Lewis 52 Foundation has, among other things, distributed food and school supplies to Baltimore families.

Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne declined to comment this week about the Atlanta incident, saying that the case has been resolved.

When approached in the team locker room after practice Thursday by a USA Today reporter, Lewis wasn't happy about the topic being broached. He declined to discuss it, saying, "Really, really. Why would I talk about that? That was 13 years ago."

In a 2010 interview with the Baltimore Sun, however, Lewis opened up about the killings.

"I'm telling you, no day leaves this Earth without me asking God to ease the pain of anybody who was affected by that whole ordeal," he said. "He's a God who tests people — not that he put me in that situation, because he didn't make me go nowhere. I put myself in that situation.

"But if I had to go through all of that over again ... I wouldn't change a thing. Couldn't. The end result is who I am now."

Former teammate Sharpe noted that Disney, the company that passed over Lewis for a Super Bowl MVP commercial in 2001, is involved in a post-retirement deal with him. ESPN, a Disney subsidiary, will hire Lewis as an NFL commentator, according to news reports.

"That shows you how someone can rehabilitate their life," Sharpe said. "I'm sure there are some people that still dislike Ray for what transpired in Atlanta, but I know a different Ray Lewis."

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Ray Lewis ending NFL career with same intensity that burned years ago at UM

It was late one night, and nobody was around other than a handful of University of Miami football players with little to do but talk. And talk they did, until one guy made a claim and a second guy objected to that claim and, well, there was just no way anybody was going to get to bed that evening until this whole mess was settled.

Ray Lewis was one of those men, Twan Russell the other. To most people, it would say something that Russell was a state champion in the 300-meter hurdles at Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas High. If Lewis was impressed, he didn’t show it.

“I’m the fastest linebacker,” Lewis said.

“You’re not the fastest,” Russell shot back.

They each kicked off their flip-flops and went flying down the road.

“Ray didn’t have a chance,” Russell, a Dolphin from 2000 through 2002, recalled this week. “Or he shouldn’t have, put it that way.”

The story comes to life this week because Lewis, 37 and a surefire Hall of Famer, is ending his career with Baltimore during these playoffs, which continue Saturday with the Ravens visiting the Denver Broncos. And what happened that night at UM has everything to do with how Lewis has stood out for 17 seasons with one franchise.

“He’s such a competitor, he would have said, ‘Let’s race on glass,’ ” said Russell, now the Dolphins’ director of youth and community programs. “To this day, I’ll say I won, but he argues me down. He didn’t beat me — he talks a whole lot louder. He would not let me leave until I raced him. He wanted to make sure I knew what kind of competitor he was. And I had to RUN. I really had to put the hammer down to beat him.”

That put Russell in the company of thousands. Lewis’ retirement announcement last week was no different from most plays he makes. You know it’s coming, yet when impact occurs, you’re still stunned.

So it was that when Lewis told teammates this was his “last ride,” the Ravens knew they had meetings to dash off to … yet they all sat there, stunned.

No more raspy, fear-of-God, “What time is it?” pep talks? No more Squirrel Dance out of the tunnel? No more running backs losing their mouthpieces as No. 52 comes from clear out of your picture to slam into him?

“It’s time for me to go create a different legacy,” Lewis said.

Most of all, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his kids, including Ray III, an incoming freshman running back at UM. Watching Hurricanes games will be a breeze for Ray, because even though he’ll maintain a home in Baltimore, his South Florida residence is in Boca Raton, where he’s also delving into a real-estate venture.

Lewis’ football legacy is secure. Describing Lewis’ ability to fire up teammates, Russell said, “I don’t think any other player could go into a football game with jumper cables and shock them. He has willed them to Super Bowls. … When you hear his speeches, that comes from a place most people aren’t capable of going. I truly believe it’s a spiritual place. I believe football is more than a game for him and that God put a little piece of something inside him that no one else has.”

Part of what’s inside Lewis came out in his final home game Sunday: tears. He got emotional meeting relatives before the game. Fans, not known for punctuality, were there to watch Lewis emerge for his signature dance one last time. Quarterback Joe Flacco instructed his wife not just to bring the video camera, but to smuggle it past security if need be. Running back Ray Rice, who fought back tears after hearing the news, was “emotional-struck.”

“My locker is right next to his, and I just can’t picture Baltimore without him,” Rice said. “He has kids, but I was one of his kids.”

That’s no coincidence. Tracing his rise, Lewis recalled being inspired by watching Junior Seau and asking himself, “Wow. Who does that? How can you be at that level?” He got to that level but didn’t stop.

“I started making my own mark and then I realized that I can do a lot of things to be great individually, but I wanted to be known differently. I wanted to make men better.”

Whether Lewis was racing sideline to sideline to chase ballcarriers, dropping into pass coverage or harassing quarterbacks, he made it look natural, almost easy. Don Soldinger, UM’s running backs coach during Lewis’ tenure, knows that over the years, whenever teammates needed to find Lewis in the training complex, they began by looking in the film room. That kind of dedication, Soldinger said, simply boiled over on Sundays when Lewis danced onto the field.

“Don’t let anybody kid you and say he was a showboat,” Soldinger said. “He’s not. I just remember him as a super, super intense guy.”

Intense on the football field, intense in the middle of the street racing barefoot. So what’s the real story on how that race turned out?

“I definitely say I won,” Russell said. “But he’s so convincing in his argument, sometimes I think he won.”

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Slayings not forgotten, Ray Lewis not forgiven

Priscilla Lollar still doesn't believe her son is dead.

Any day now, she hopes he might finally return from Atlanta, walking through the door of her home in Akron, Ohio, as if nothing happened on the morning of Jan. 31, 2000.

"If I truly accept that he's not coming back ... " says Lollar, her voice trailing off. "I don't discuss him in the past. I don't really acknowledge anything."

Deep down, she knows he's gone. She knows it every time she turns on the television and sees Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis — a reminder that her son, Richard, has been dead for 13 years, stabbed to death outside a nightclub in Atlanta, along with his friend from Akron, Jacinth Baker.

Their murders remain unsolved. But as the anniversary of their deaths approaches — and as Lewis dances into the sunset of his NFL career — the victims' relatives are still seething at him. While Priscilla Lollar says she's "numb" to Lewis, others want answers. And justice.

"My nephew was brutally beaten and murdered and nobody is paying for it," Baker's uncle, Greg Wilson, told USA TODAY Sports. "Everything is so fresh in our mind, it's just like it happened yesterday. We'll never forget this."

Only Lewis pleaded guilty in relation to the case: for obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor. He originally was charged with two counts of murder but struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against two of his companions that night, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.

Lewis never implicated his two friends at trial, and they were acquitted. Lewis had testified that Oakley, Sweeting and another man had gone to a sporting goods store the previous day to buy knives. Baker's blood later was found in Lewis' limo. Having fled the crime scene, Lewis told the limo's passengers to "keep their mouths shut." The white suit Lewis was wearing that night — on Super Bowl Sunday — never was found.

"I'm not trying to end my career like this," Lewis said in his hotel that night, according to the testimony of a female passenger in the limo.

He didn't. For his punishment, Lewis received one year of probation and a $250,000 fine by the NFL.

Lewis declined to comment when asked about the subject Thursday by USA TODAY Sports. Messages left for agents and attorneys representing him were not returned. Oakley, recently living in Atlanta, didn't return messages seeking comment. A relative of Sweeting, living in Miami, hung up when reached by USA TODAY Sports. And the prosecutor, Paul Howard, declined a request to be interviewed.

Said Lewis: "You want to talk to me about something that happened 13 years ago right now?"

Lewis was more circumspect about the incident in a 2010 interview withThe Baltimore Sun. "I'm telling you, no day leaves this Earth without me asking God to ease the pain of anybody who was affected by that whole ordeal." he said. "He's a God who tests people — not that he put me in that situation, because he didn't make me go nowhere. I put myself in that situation."

In those 13 years, Lewis has not only rehabilitated his image but become an iconic figure for his dominating play and leadership. His 17-year career is likely to be immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, about 20 miles south of Akron, where Lollar and Baker are buried near their families.

Lewis, 37, will be eligible for induction five years after his retirement this season, which could come as soon as Saturday if the Ravens lose their playoff game at Denver. After announcing his retirement, Lewis has basked in the praise of adoring NFL fans. The crowd roared as he took a victory lap — and dance — around the stadium Sunday after beating the Indianapolis Colts. Commissioner Roger Goodell even said he wants to employ Lewis as a special adviser to himself because he's a "tremendous voice of reason."

Cindy Lollar-Owens, Richard Lollar's aunt, says Lewis' pending retirement prompted her Thursday to visit the funeral home, "because that's where my nephew retired."

Lollar-Owens says she doesn't know if Lewis did or didn't stab anybody — just that Lewis was there and that evidence suggests he was involved. For his part, Lewis denied guilt in the stabbing and said that he was unfairly targeted by Howard. Lewis said he didn't know who did the stabbings amid the push and pull of a crowded fight around 4 a.m.

It's not enough for some family members.

"Every time I see him, I think of my nephew," Lollar-Owens says.

The victims
Baker and Lollar were 21 and 24 at the times of their deaths, both having been stabbed several times in the heart and upper body.

Both had overcome personal struggles before that night. Lollar's mother had been in and out of prison, leaving Lollar-Owens and her mother to raise Richard. Both Lollar and Baker had criminal records with minor drug-related offenses.

But they moved from Akron to Atlanta in search of a better life. Lollar was trying to make it there as a barber, Baker as an artist. Lollar also was ready to have a family. His fiancé, Kellye Smith, was pregnant with his daughter, born about a month after his murder.

The daughter is now 12 and attends a private school near Atlanta. The family says it tries to shield her from the details of her father's death.

"She just knows her father is not here," says Katheryn Smith, mother of Kellye Smith. "She doesn't really know what happened. So far, we've kept most of it from her."

Katheryn Smith says she harbors no grudge against Lewis, though the circumstances are different from those of other relatives.

Smith's family sued Lewis for $13 million and reached an undisclosed settlement on behalf of Richard Lollar's daughter in 2004.

In the suit, Lewis answered questions under oath in a deposition.

"His attitude during the deposition and everything wasn't that great," Katheryn Smith says of Lewis. "He disappointed me in the things he said. But I decided I wasn't the one (to judge). You have to leave that up to God, you know? He was there when it happened. I think they all got off fairly easy, but I don't have any hard feelings. I think he had a bad choice of friends."

She declined to elaborate on Lewis' deposition testimony, which has not been disclosed. Kellye Smith didn't return a message seeking comment. The settlement includes a confidentiality clause.

In another suit, Gladys Robinson, Baker's grandmother, also reached an undisclosed settlement with Lewis in 2003 after suing him for $10 million. She is now deceased.

Time with family
The way Priscilla Lollar remembers it, her son was supposed to come back to Akron soon after Jan. 31, 2000. He was supposed to pick her up and bring her down to Atlanta, where he could help keep her out of trouble. She says she was at a friend's house when her phone rang that day. It was her stepfather, who told her to come home.

When she learned from him what happened, "I didn't believe it," she says. She still doesn't. "I'm numb to the fact, even after all this time."

Her sister, Lollar-Owens, still wants to believe that Lewis feels their loss. Explaining why he was retiring now, Lewis recently said he wanted to spend more time with his children.

"I've seen where he was speaking about family and stuff, and I'm quite sure that every time he sees his son, he thinks about the son, grandson and father that we lost," Lollar-Owens says. "It would be impossible not to. Never a day goes by that we don't think about him."

For "closure," she wants to talk to Lewis. If she gets the chance, Lollar-Owens says she would ask him for money, not for herself, but to build a beauty salon in the name of her nephew, the barber.

"That would be my kind of closure, because I would have his memory," she says.

She also wants the truth. "I would like for him to tell one day exactly what happened," Lollar-Owens says.

It might help relieve the pain and anger for her mother, Joyce Lollar, who fell sick with heart trouble last month.

Joyce Lollar has bristled at the sight of Lewis on TV, a feeling shared by Greg Wilson, the uncle who helped raise Baker.

"I cringe. I just cringe," Wilson says of seeing Lewis on television. He's upset at how the case was handled by Howard. He also blames the NFL and Ravens. Prior to the next Super Bowl in 2001, then-Ravens coach Brian Billick criticized the news media for continuing to ask questions about the murders.

"The problem to me is America was more interested in him playing football instead of him paying the price for what he was involved in," Wilson says. "That's how we feel. They wanted nothing to happen to him. (Team owner) Art Modell didn't want his golden boy to suffer, so he could make money for him. So they did all they could to get him out of trouble."

The other men moved on after their acquittals. Oakley published an unedited book on the murders entitledMurder After Super Bowl XXXIV, copyrighted in 2010.
In the book's opening, Oakley describes a chaotic scene with several fights breaking out. He describes Lewis imploring his friends to get into his limo. He describes a man staggering in the street holding his side before "falling backward onto the street." He later describes three other men getting into the limo saying, "We kicked they ass."

The rest of the book is unavailable and out of print.

Wilson says there was supposed to be a meeting with Lewis and the families after the trial. It never happened.

"We wouldn't have went to the meeting anyway," Wilson says. "It would not have been a peaceful meeting. … I'll be very upset if they induct (Lewis) into the Hall of Fame. There's other people out there that committed a lesser crime and they're sitting in jail."

Baker, his nephew, "was raised in our home," Wilson says. "We have no compassion for Ray Lewis, for Art Modell, for any of them. We don't want to see him."

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Ray Lewis grew to love Baltimore, and vice versa

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When Ray Lewis was selected in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft, he didn't even know the nickname of the team that drafted him.

The Cleveland Browns had just moved to Baltimore, and general manger Ozzie Newsome chose Lewis with the 26st overall pick after taking tackle Jonathan Ogden at No. 4.

"I picked up the phone," Lewis recalled, "and the first thing I said to him was, 'Ozzie, what's our team name going to be? Who are we?'"

Lewis quickly became the face of the Baltimore Ravens, and the stellar middle linebacker will remain a beloved figure in Charm City long after he pulls off his No. 52 jersey for the final time.

"When you think about the Baltimore Ravens, the first name you mention is Ray Lewis," Baltimore running back Ray Rice said Tuesday. "That's just what it is,
and it's something that will never be taken away from him."

The 37-year-old Lewis will retire after the Ravens finish their current playoff run. Baltimore (11-6) plays at Denver (13-3) on Saturday.

Lewis was elected to 13 Pro Bowls, was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was Super Bowl MVP after the 2000 season. But nothing makes him prouder than saying that he played 17 seasons, all with Baltimore.

"Out of everything that's been going on, that's probably the biggest thing that has me the most excited, that I've been able to stay in one place for so long," Lewis said. "You watch so many players go in and out, shuffle from team to team.

"For me to be here, I was a kid when I came here and didn't have a clue what was going on. I grew with this city and this city grew with me. I will die a Raven. That's an awesome, awesome feeling. There's no greater achievement for me, myself, to say I've always been connected to one thing my entire life."

John Unitas left Baltimore for San Diego, Joe Namath spent time with the Los Angeles Rams, Joe Montana bounced from San Francisco for Kansas City. The list goes on.

"Look at the guy we're going up against this week, Peyton Manning," Ravens guard Bobbie Williams said. "He could probably go back to Indianapolis and be mayor if he wanted to, but he couldn't finish his career in one place."

Lewis did. And although Lewis hasn't announced plans to run for office in Baltimore, Williams is certain his teammate could make some noise on election day.
"He's very political, well spoken, very articulate," Williams said. "He would put up some good numbers at the polls."

Baltimore loves Lewis, and he loves Charm City right back. After Lewis did his trademark dance on the field as the clock ran out on the Ravens' 24-9 win over Indianapolis last Sunday, Colts receiver Reggie Wayne called the celebration "disrespectful."

Lewis dismissed the charge Tuesday, insisting that the display was not intended as a slap in the face to the losing team.

"When he was in Pop Warner playing football, I was in Baltimore," Lewis said. "The game was over. I didn't go toward their sideline and make a big issue of it because I've never been that type of player. (It was) a salute to my city, knowing that people love to see that. And not just people. My teammate encouraged me the most. It was about me, honoring my team and honoring my city."

Williams started his 13-year career in Philadelphia, then toiled for eight years in Cincinnati before coming to Baltimore last June. Lewis started in Baltimore and ended in Baltimore. Period.

"It's awesome," Williams said. "Even some of the greats that have played this game, at the end of their career they bounced around trying to get one more year in. But for one guy to play here his entire career, and to be relevant even to the end, it's unheard of."

Lewis has been playing for Baltimore as long as the Ravens have been the Ravens. No other player in the world can make that assessment.

"It's a great thing, the relationship between Baltimore and Ray," coach John Harbaugh said. "It's very unique. I don't think there can ever be another situation like this. Jonathan Ogden was a similar situation, obviously. You've got two guys who came in when the organization was just beginning. As Ray said, before there were team colors, before there was a mascot, there was Ray and Jonathan Ogden. ... It's just a very special thing."

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Ray Lewis won't apologize to Reggie Wayne for dance

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne felt that Ray Lewis' final "squirrel dance" as a Baltimore Raven was disrespectful. Based on the reaction to our post, a lot of our readers surprisingly agree with Wayne.

Lewis isn't about to apologize.

"It wasn't about them at that time," the linebacker said Tuesday via BaltimoreRavens.com. "That was about capping off a heck of a legacy of 17 years. When he was in pop warner playing football, I was in Baltimore. To salute my city that way, I guess the trot around the field was disrespectful too. No. It wasn’t even about them."

Lewis and Wayne both went to the University of Miami. Guys from the "U" are insanely competitive and hate to lose. That's why we can't fault Wayne for his statements, even if they seem silly from the outside. It's like teams complaining about running up the score: The Colts could have stopped the Ravens from being in the position to celebrate Lewis' legacy.

It was a cool moment for an all-time great. For Wayne to complain is one thing. Anyone else that gets bent out of shape about it probably has deeper problems.
"The game was over," Lewis said. "I didn't go towards their sideline or make no big issue of that because I've never been that type of player. But [it was] to salute my city, knowing that people love to see that."

Lewis went on to say that he loves Wayne to death and how he texted Colts coach Chuck Pagano right after the game.

Lewis indicated that Wayne might have been upset by the loss, but stressed how much he cares for the veteran wide receiver, who is a fellow Miami alum and also a close friend of safety Ed Reed.

"It wasn't even about them," Lewis said. "It was about me honoring my team and honoring my city."

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Ray Lewis to meet old nemesis in Peyton Manning for final time

Having announced his impending retirement, Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis knows that each playoff game could be the last time he suits up. As luck would have it Saturday, the 17-year veteran will face old nemesis Peyton Manning when the Ravens visit Denver.

Including the Broncos' 34-17 victory Dec. 16 at Baltimore, Manning has beaten the Ravens nine consecutive times, with the first eight while wearing an Indianapolis uniform.

Despite that losing streak to Manning, Lewis recalled Tuesday during a teleconference that the meetings were fiercely competitive.

"It's always those close games (you remember)," Lewis said. "It's those classic memories that you reminisce about when the game is over. The warrior side of me remembers all those times being a heck of a battle."

Lewis said the losing streak to Manning means nothing in regard to Saturday's AFC division-round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The winner advances to the AFC championship game.

"It's a whole new game now," Lewis said. "The only thing that matters right now is if we win this week."

Lewis recorded 13 tackles Sunday in the wild-card playoff game victory over Indianapolis, playing for the first time since tearing his right triceps Oct. 14 against Dallas. He said he "feels great" and the 10 weeks off rejuvenated his body.

Manning said at some point he will personally greet Lewis with well wishes, whether it be on a hand-written note or with a face-to-face meeting. "(Lewis) is an excellent player," Manning said Tuesday. "He's made a huge difference for their team coming back; you could see the energy that he brought to that team on Sunday.

"My thoughts on Ray Lewis — you could go back every single time we played against him. ... Ray Lewis knows how I feel about him, and I'll share that with him at the appropriate time."

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Ray Lewis' dance 'disrespectful,' Reggie Wayne says

The Baltimore Ravens' 24-9 wild-card win over the Indianapolis Colts ultimately might best be remembered as "The Ray Lewis Retirement Extravaganza."

There was the emotional pregame "squirrel dance." That bear hug with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Numerous tributes on the in-stadium screens. A postgame victory lap.

But when Lewis brought back the "squirrel" after lining up in the backfield on the Ravens' final play Sunday, Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne had seen enough.

"I saw it as disrespectful," Wayne said Monday on WNDE-AM in Indianapolis. "They'd already had a tribute every quarter."

We could see how the spectacle surrounding Lewis would become tiresome for a Colts team that traveled to Baltimore solely to keep its season alive. Instead, they became a supporting act to a day about Ray.

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Ray Lewis was 'nervous,' one Ravens teammate says

One more nugget from Ray Lewis' last stand in Baltimore.

In the hours before Lewis took the field for his final home game at M&T Bank Stadium -- he's set to retire after the season -- teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo noticed something peculiar about the Ravens legend.

"I've never really seen Ray nervous before," Ayanbadejo told Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, after Baltimore's 24-9 wild-card victory over the Indianapolis Colts set up a trip to Denver to face the Broncos next weekend.

Ayanbadejo rode shotgun in Lewis' white Infiniti from the team's hotel to the stadium and saw, as Silver described, an "emotional teammate savoring every second of the journey."

"I mean, Ray Lewis doesn't get nervous," Ayanbadejo said. "Well, Ray was nervous. It was a pretty amazing sight."

Anything resembling the jitters melted away as Lewis led the Ravens with 13 tackles. The seven-time All-Pro saw plenty of action on defense against the Colts and, as the game's final seconds ticked away, thrilled the masses with his patented "squirrel dance."

One last moment with the people before vanishing into the Baltimore night.

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PHOTOS: Ray Lewis In His Last Home Game As A Baltimore Raven



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VIDEO: Ray Lewis' Final Introduction as Raven in Baltimore

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Ray Lewis bids farewell to Baltimore Ravens fans in style

The 37-year-old Lewis will end his 17-year NFL career after the Ravens complete a postseason that began with Sunday's first-round game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Lewis returned to his middle linebacker position after a 10-week absence. Minutes before the opening kickoff, Lewis thrilled the sellout crowd during introductions by coming out of the tunnel and gyrating to the tune "Hot in Herre."

Hundreds of fans had their cellphones raised to either take a picture or videotape the moment.

Lewis does the dance only before home games, and this was Baltimore's last this season at M&T Bank Stadium.

If the Ravens don't win Sunday, it will be Lewis' final game. If they beat the Colts, the Ravens will next play on Saturday in Denver.

Lewis concluded pre-game warmups by addressing the entire team on the 5-yard line. After his short speech, Lewis hugged a few teammates, mingled with a few people in the crowd and jogged to the sideline, where he engaged in a lengthy embrace with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Thousands of fans were wearing No. 52 jerseys. Lewis has been a fan favorite in Baltimore since he was selected in the first round of the Ravens' initial draft in 1996.

Ken Malik, 61, wore a purple Lewis jersey and a broad smile.

"It's the end of an era for the Baltimore Ravens," he said. "He's been a great player. He's stood for what the Baltimore Ravens are and what they have been since they (came) to Baltimore."

There is no age limitation for fans of Lewis, who made his NFL debut when Kylie O'Neill-Mullin was 4. She was wearing a long black tunic with Lewis' number on the front and back.

"This is a big deal. It's the last time he'll come out of the tunnel," she said. "It's the last time he'll play on this field. I'm excited to be here."

One fan had a sign with a purple heart and the No. 52 in the middle. Earlier, a helicopter flew overhead with the No. 52 painted on its undercarriage.

Lewis was sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps. He worked diligently to return in time for the playoffs, and his hard work paid off.

Lewis was elected to 13 Pro Bowls and is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He told his teammates on Wednesday, "This will be my last ride."

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Roger Goodell: Ray Lewis 'incredible'

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis set to retire after the playoffs, has lauded the career and contributions of the future Hall of Famer, calling him "a special guy. Obviously, he's an incredible football player."

Speaking in an extensive interview with The Baltimore Sun, Goodell said he thought Lewis would likely stay in the league in some capacity long after retirement.

"It's very unique to have a player play 17 years in the NFL, and the second thing is to play with one team and to really, truly become the identity of the brand of football that they play," Goodell told The Sun. "It's passionate, emotional, physical.

"That's the kind of game Ray plays, and that's the kind of game the Ravens pattern themselves off of. That's a great thing for the Baltimore community, the Ravens' fans and for the team to have that kind of leadership. That's what it is: It's leadership. That's what he provided to the team, to the NFL and to the Baltimore community."

Lewis, 37, said Wednesday he would retire at season's end, that it was time for him to create a "new legacy."

"There comes a time for everybody," Goodell said. "You're saddened to have someone so special to the game of football leave the field, but I know that he's the kind of guy who will stay involved and who, one way or another, will continue to make a contribution back to the game of football. He's a special guy. Obviously, he's an incredible football player, but he's also made enormous contributions off the field."

Lewis, who hasn't played since tearing his triceps two months ago, intends to return when the Ravens host the Colts in Sunday's wild-card game, having resumed practicing Dec. 5. He is also close to signing a multiyear contract with ESPN to join the network as an NFL analyst, according to an SI.com report.

"I think he's a great example ... how you can play the game in a very physical way but play it fundamentally sound, using the right techniques, techniques that are safe for you and safer for the opponent," Goodell said. "Watching him play, it's just always 110 percent effort on every play. He's giving it his all, he's got incredible passion. He's a fierce competitor and you saw that in the way he played the game. It's something I admire and I love to watch him play."

Goodell said he and Lewis had regularly kept in touch during the commissioner's six-year tenure regarding pressing issues facing the league.

"He's a tremendous voice of reason," Goodell said. "He's someone that has a unique pulse of the players and that's helpful to me. That perspective is important to hear, and he would always share that with me whether he called or I called him. ... He means a great deal to this commissioner, and I could tell you that I will always seek out his input. He will stay involved, I'm certain of it, in football, and that perspective that he has is something I'll reach out for on a regular basis."

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Ray Lewis Set To Join ESPN In Retirement

ESPN is on the verge of adding Ray Lewis to its talent lineup.

Multiple sources told SI.com the Ravens linebacker is close to signing a multi-year contract with the network. At ESPN, Lewis is expected to have a significant role on the network's Monday Night Countdown program. As with most ESPN NFL talent, Lewis would also be featured on multiple platforms, including ESPN Radio.

No formal announcement from Lewis or the network is expected until the conclusion of the Ravens season. Lewis announced Wednesday that he planned to retire at the end of Baltimore's season. The Ravens host the Colts on Sunday in the AFC WIld Card round.

An ESPN spokesperson declined comment when contacted Thursday morning.

According to multiple sources, Lewis and his representatives from talent agency William Morris Endeavor met during the season with several of the NFL broadcast networks.

One of Lewis' main requirements, according to sources, was flexibility in his schedule so he could attend the games of his son, Ray Lewis III, who will be a freshman running back/defensive back next season at his father's alma mater, the University of Miami. Such scheduling made Lewis an unlikely fit for a full-time role on the Sunday morning shows aired by CBS or Fox where he'd be required to be part of pre-show meetings on either Saturday or early Sunday. There is a possibility Lewis could work for ESPN on some Sundays depending on his travel. Given his star power, it's very likely Lewis would have a role on ESPN's multiple-day coverage of April's NFL draft.

Every network with an NFL contract has a list of players and coaches who would make good broadcasters. Last month, SI.com interviewed executives at CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and The NFL Network to find out who was on their watch lists. Unsurprisingly, Lewis was high on most charts. Some believe he can have a Charles Barkley-like impact in the studio.

"Ray Lewis has an intensity about him and a way of communicating that is very infectious," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said. "He is a bigger-than-life personality, very articulate and [has] an incredible passion for the game. If Ray Lewis decided to take that same passion and put it into a broadcasting career, I think he would be a terrific studio analyst or I imagine game analyst, too.

Fox Sports Media group executive producer John Entz echoed McManus. "I see Ray as a guy who would be great in the studio because he is so animated and emotive," Entz said. "I think he could fire people up there."

Lewis had 12 Pro Bowl appearances during his 17 seasons and is a two-time winner of the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, including in 2000, the same season he was voted Super Bowl MVP following his team's win over the New York Giants. Most consider him among the NFL's greatest middle linebackers and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2018.

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Ray Lewis' $100-125 Million Impact on the Growth of Baltimore Ravens Franchise Value

Emotions will run high at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday as Ray Lewis will in all likelihood be playing his last home game with a team whose tenure in Baltimore mirrors his own.

From 1996 to the present, Mr. Lewis has been the undisputed team leader.

The Baltimore Ravens, established in 1996 who arrived into town from Cleveland, have reached the NFL playoffs in 9 of 13 seasons since (and including) 2000 when they won the Super Bowl.  5 of those appearances have occurred consecutively dating back to 2008 and the arrival of Coach John Harbaugh.
From 2000 (the Ravens Super Bowl winning year) through the present, the Lewis-led Baltimore defense finished among the league’s Top 4 defenses 7 of 13 years…and only 3 times finished outside of the Top 10.

In short, Ray Lewis’ energetic play and inspirational demeanor is unquestioned, and he is a large reason for the team’s defensive success over the years.
But how much of the franchise’s $1.16 billion estimated worth (as of Forbes’ 2012 valuation estimates) is he responsible for?

Let’s account for inflation so we can compare apples to apples.  Multiplying the 1997 estimated nominal franchise value ($329 million) by a factor of approximately 1.433 (the ratio of the 2012 and 1997 CPIs) implies that the 1997 franchise value measured in current 2012 dollars was roughly $470 million.  This yields a $690 million disparity between the 2012 and 1997 franchise values.

How much of that additional $690 million can be attributed to Ray Lewis?

First, we must account for the financial consequences associated with a team that receives a new stadium.  As the time series data on the team’s revenues from the late 1990s and early 2000s shows, revenues realized a larger spike once the team started playing at M&T Bank Stadium than even after their World Championship.

For example, team revenue for 1998 (the first year of the new stadium) was $120 million…or an increase of 64% over the $73 million earned in 1997.  Conversely, team revenues for the 2000 championship season were $139 million…or an increase of 13% over the $123 million earned in 1999.  Throughout the 2000s, there were no one-year percentage increases in revenue that even approached the 64% increase generated from the new stadium effect.

In short, without a relatively new stadium, the Ravens would be more apt to have a franchise value in the $800-900 million range.  Thus, a new stadium in my estimation explains between one-third to one-half of the $690 million boost in franchise value experienced during Lewis’ tenure.

Second, we must account for the team’s success.  To appreciate the importance of success, consider that the Cleveland Browns play in a newer stadium (1999) but their franchise value is roughly $200 million less than the Ravens despite having a larger TV market than Baltimore.

Explanation?  The Browns have only reached the playoffs once since 1999 (2002), and this drives their value down relative to markets (like Baltimore) that regularly win.

But how much of the credit for that consistent success goes to Ray Lewis compared to his teammates’ collective efforts or the Harbaugh coaching regime?  Coach Harbaugh has already reached the postseason more times in 5 seasons (5) than Brian Billick accomplished (4) in 9 seasons.  In short, not all of the team’s successes can be tied 100% to Ray Lewis.  He played a major role, but there have been and still are many other role players.

Third, the historic brand appeal of the franchise has helped keep the Ravens franchise value among the NFL’s top third.  A brand appeal built upon a rich football history dating back to 1953 in Baltimore that eventually featured such historic names as Unitas, Ameche, and Berry.  A brand appeal that was yearning for an outlet in the years after the old Colts drove out of town in 1984 to Indianapolis.  Teams with newer stadiums (e.g. Detroit, Cincinnati, Arizona) don’t have the same historic brand appeal as football in Baltimore due to lack of historical success.

At the end of the day, it is my assessment that Ray Lewis’ financial influence upon the growth of the Ravens’ franchise value during his 17-year tenure likely lies near $100-125 million of the $690 million increase observed from 1997 to the present.

As large as this is, Lewis’ impact on the franchise and city still pales in comparison to what Peyton Manning did for Indianapolis.
The difference between Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning?

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Ray Lewis' retirement will save Ravens $4.35 million in salary-cap space

The salary-cap impact of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis' pending retirement will amount to a net savings of $4.35 million for this year, an important bit of savings considering the AFC North champions' free agency needs.

Due a $5.4 million base salary in 2013, Lewis was scheduled for a salary-cap figure of $7.3 million.

The Ravens save the $5.4 million by virtue of Lewis' exit from the roster, but will still have to account for his $1.9 million in prorated bonus for 2013 and $650,000 and $400,000 in 2014 and 2015 for a total of $2.95 million in total dead money.

Lewis was signed to a seven-year, $42.5 million contract extension that included $16.5 million in total guaranteed money, including a signing bonus of $6.25 million.

The Ravens are expected to face a tight salary-cap situation even with Lewis' departure because they are expected to have to use the franchise tag to retain quarterback Joe Flacco, barring an advancement in contract discussions that hit an impasse in August with talks tabled until after the season.

The outlook for free safety Ed Reed is murky, too.

Reed could be expensive to retain after making $7.2 million this year in the final year of his contract.

Reed hasn't hired a new agent to represent him after a contract extension was broached last year. The Ravens haven't held talks with Reed this year, but he's expected to hire an agent after the season.

If the future Hall of Fame defender heads elsewhere, expect the potential suitors to include the New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts and others.
Reed will also contemplate retirement depending on how the Ravens fare in the postseason.

The Ravens will be challenged to replace a trio of key defensive free agents: outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who recorded a career-high nine sacks and will be sought after by teams looking for a situational pass rusher; cornerback Cary Williams, who intercepted a career-high four passes to go with 75 tackles and 17 pass deflections; and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

Ellerbe is expected to field a strong market for his services as one of the top inside linebackers available if he hits free agency. He'll be an important player for the Ravens to try to retain following Lewis' retirement.

Despite dealing with a broken thumb, a sprained thumb, a left foot injury and a sprained right ankle that limited him to 13 games and seven starts, Ellerbe recorded a career-high 89 tackles to rank second on the team. He also emerged as the Ravens' top inside blitzer with 4 1/2 sacks.

Although the Ravens made a $10.5 million commitment to Jameel McClain last spring, he's recovering from a spinal cord contusion. While McClain had 79 tackles this season in 13 starts, he had no sacks or forced fumbles.

While Flacco is the No. 1 priority for the Ravens' offseason financially, they'll have other business to conduct to try to upgrade a defense that has improved over the past six games to finish the season ranked 17th in the NFL.

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Ray Lewis among top five defenders ever

The Baltimore Ravens are losing more than leadership after the season with the retirement of Ray Lewis.

They are losing one of the five best defensive players I have had the fortune to cover. As you might know, I started covering the NFL in 1972. Because of that, I was able to catch the end of Dick Butkus' career. He retired in 1973, and I marveled at how he roamed the field and made violent tackles.

Every time I watched Lewis, he reminded me of Butkus. Because Lewis was faster, maybe he should be ranked ahead of Butkus among the greatest defensive players ever, but out of respect to NFL history, I rank Butkus ahead of Lewis. Remember, I still go with Jim Brown as the best pure NFL football player I've ever seen.

So here are John Clayton’s top five defensive players:

1. Lawrence Taylor: He changed the game. He was so good at rushing the quarterback, Bill Parcells put him as a 3-4 linebacker and just let him rush. When you watch games, most of the time your eyes angle toward the quarterback. During the L.T. days, you ended up watching him. He was that good.

2. Reggie White: He was unblockable. White is considered the greatest unrestricted free agent in NFL history. Once he went to Green Bay, the Packers returned to their status as a legacy franchise. I can't tell you how many times I'd see White get angry at some cheap-shot block and then decide to line up in front of offender and embarrass him with a "hump" move.

3. "Mean" Joe Greene: Chuck Noll built perhaps the greatest football dynasty around Mean Joe. As a rookie, Greene was a little like Ndamukong Suh. Not only was he was difficult to block, he also lived up to his nickname. Veterans told him he didn't have to take the cheap shots, so Greene dominated cleanly and professionally.

4. Dick Butkus: NFL Films and the Sabol family captured his greatest on tape every week. Growing up, I looked forward to NFL Films' weekly highlights show in order to see the best of Butkus. Had he played now, he would be on the "SportsCenter" highlights every Sunday night.

5. Ray Lewis: I still remember a Ravens training camp at which I had to ask Lewis about his tackling style. Lewis always seemed to explode as he neared a ball carrier. I asked him whether my observation was valid.

Lewis smiled and noted that he was a wrestler in high school and much of that explosion came from his wrestling techniques. Could you imagine going against Lewis on a wrestling mat?

The 2000 Ravens defense was the third-best I've seen, ranking behind the 1970s Steelers' Steel Curtain and the 1985 Chicago Bears, and Lewis was the leader. What was amazing is how his presence has been able to help Baltimore maintain its defensive toughness for so long.

Lewis was Butkus-tough, but he was the perfect middle linebacker because of his range. When the Ravens eventually switched to a 3-4 defense, Lewis told me why their 3-4 was so different. Normally, 3-4 defensive coaches like bigger players. They like 260-pound outside linebackers who are tall. They like stout inside linebackers to stuff and run and ward off blockers.

The Ravens' 3-4 was always different because Lewis could run and tackle from sideline to sideline. He made sure the rest of the starting linebacker corps could also run, which allowed them to use lighter, more agile defenders.

One of the highlights of my tour of training camps this year was seeing Lewis at his lightest. To regain some of his speed and quickness, Lewis spent the offseason riding a bike. He rode as much as 80 miles a day.

It allowed him to come to camp more than 20 pounds lighter than the previous season.

Lewis will be missed next season, but I will be looking forward to the Pro Football Hall of Fame vote for him in five years. He will be inducted on the first ballot. He's earned it.

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Ray Lewis: “This will be my last ride”

One of the greatest players in NFL history is preparing to hang it up after the playoffs.

Ray Lewis, the Ravens linebacker and future Pro Football Hall of Famer, said today that he plans to retire following this season. The Ravens open the playoffs on Sunday against the Colts, in what will likely be Lewis’s last game in Baltimore.

“This will be my last ride,” Lewis said.

The Ravens’ first-round pick in the 1996 NFL draft, Lewis has been chosen to 13 Pro Bowls, is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and was the Super Bowl XXXV Most Valuable Player.

Lewis’s decision is no surprise: At age 37, he has already played far longer than most NFL linebackers, and this season has been a disappointment, with a torn triceps muscle causing him to miss 10 games. Lewis also said on ProFootballTalk Live in October that he wants to step away from the game in time to watch his son play at the University of Miami next season, and there’s already speculation that he’ll line up a post-NFL job at ESPN.

So while players sometimes change their minds about retirement, this doesn’t seem like a rash decision for Lewis. These playoffs will probably be the last opportunity for football fans to see one of the best linebackers ever to play the game.

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John Harbaugh dodges questions about Ray Lewis

It’s widely believed that linebacker Ray Lewis will return from a torn triceps muscle to play for the Ravens when Baltimore welcomes the Colts back to town for the eighth time.

Coach John Harbaugh won’t be confirming that until he absolutely has to.

“It’s all going to be a game-time decision, as far as anybody knows,” Harbaugh said Monday, via CSNBaltimore.com.  “This is the playoffs, and we’re not taking about injuries.  We’re not talking about activations.  We really don’t care what you or anybody else thinks about that.”

They should care what the league office thinks, but as long as the injury report is complete there’s no further obligation to say anything about player injuries.Though the Ravens previously were fined $20,000 for failing to disclose that safety Ed Reed had a shoulder injury, the consequences for fudging the injury report are a relatively minor cost of doing business — especially when the business entails chasing a championship.

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