Ravens’ Ray Lewis cen­tre of at­ten­tion,

Ravens star fo­cused on what God has in store for his fu­ture

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - BRUCE ARTHUR

They didn’t put Ray Lewis in the mid­dle; they put him be­tween the 15- and 20-yard line, near the end of a row of podi­ums lined up un­der the vast roof of the Su­per­dome. But Ray Lewis was still in the mid­dle of it all. He has al­ways been in the mid­dle of it all.

Su­per Bowl Me­dia Day is a mix of fluff and stunts and the oc­ca­sional spasm of se­ri­ous­ness and Ray Lewis wasn’t about to let it be­come any­thing other than that.

He was asked ador­ing ques­tions about his pend­ing re­tire­ment, about his lead­er­ship, about his sig­nif­i­cance. He spoke at length about his fam­ily, God, his last ride, his legacy. He talked for a long time. He smiled a lot.

And when he was asked about the dou­ble mur­der of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lol­lar in 2000 at the Su­per Bowl in At­lanta — about how their fam­i­lies find it hard to watch Lewis play and be ven­er­ated af­ter he pleaded guilty to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, af­ter an un­suc­cess­ful mur­der trial failed to con­vict two of his friends, af­ter he paid civil set­tle­ments to both fam­i­lies — Lewis stopped smil­ing.

“I truly be­lieve that if you take a 13-year break on any­thing, as hard as it is for them, as hard as it is about the things that you want me to speak about, and you want me to report about, I just don’t be­lieve, hon­estly, that this is the ap­pro­pri­ate time for that,” said Lewis, wear­ing a Ga­torade towel around his neck.

“Be­cause the sym­pa­thy that I have for that fam­ily, or what me and my fam­ily have en­dured be­cause of all of that, no­body here is really qual­i­fied to ask those ques­tions.

“And I just truly feel that this is God’s time and what­ever His time is, let it be His will. Don’t try to please ev­ery­body with your words and try to make ev­ery­body’s story sound right. At this time, I would rather di­rect my ques­tions in other places, be­cause I live with that ev­ery day.” His voice hard­ened. “You can maybe take a break, but I don’t. I live with it ev­ery day of my life and I’d rather not speak about that to­day.”

The next ques­tion, from a Ja­panese TV crew, was about how to slow down 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick. Later, Lewis ig­nored a ques­tion from the same re­porter who had asked about the fam­i­lies. His an­swer about the fam­i­lies was not in­cluded in the NFL’s ab­bre­vi­ated tran­script, sent to re­porters. He moved on.

The last time Lewis was at Me­dia Day, be­fore Baltimore won the Su­per Bowl in 2001, it was just one year af­ter the stab­bings and it was com­bat­ive.

This time, he was in charge of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Lewis, the line­backer, will be a Hall of Famer and he has re­port­edly al­ready been hired by ESPN to be­come a be­nign chortling head on their NFL pan­els.

He is highly re­spected by play­ers, coaches and the com­mis­sioner. Ray Lewis, in the NFL, has been for­given by the pow­ers that be.

So, the stunt me­dia played with him — Ines Sainz squeezed her way to the front of the queue ahead of the guy from Nick­elodeon who was dressed like a su­per­hero and who even­tu­ally got to ask his ques­tion about the 49ers fart­ing in Ray’s locker. (“How would they get in my locker?” Lewis asked.)

He was given a Univer­sity of Mi­ami hat from a Mi­ami TV re­porter and he was asked by an en­ter­tain­ment re­porter if he had ever been cat­fished. He laughed.

“I may have been cat­fished once or twice,” he said.

There was some more choppy water. Lewis was asked about a Sports Il­lus­trated report pub­lished Tues­day that he had used a spray con­tain­ing a banned ex­tract from deer antlers, IGF-1, to help re­cover from his torn tri­ceps this sea­son.

The link first sur­faced two years ago in a report from Ya­hoo! that de­tailed Lewis’s text mes­sages with the seller, a man named Mitch Ross. The 37-year-old line­backer, with a pan­ther tat­too creep­ing up his sleeve and his el­bows a tan­gle of scars, bris­tled again.

“That was a two-year-old story that you want me to re­fresh,” Lewis said. “I won’t give him the credit to even men­tion his name or his an­tics in my speeches or my moment. I can’t do it. So, I won’t even speak about it. Be­cause I’ve been in this busi­ness 17 years and no­body has ever got up with me ev­ery morn­ing and trained with me. Ev­ery test I’ve ever took in the NFL, there’s never been a ques­tion if I’ve ever even thought about us­ing any­thing.”

Later, when asked di­rectly if he had ever used the spray, Lewis said: “No, never. Never.”

No­body men­tioned that IGF-1 is only de­tectable in blood tests, which the NFL still does not em­ploy, and Lewis went back to talk­ing in su­perla­tives.

He said he car­ries an Art Modell T-shirt ev­ery­where be­cause it takes his thoughts to a deeper place. He talked about his in­spi­ra­tions — Mi­ami was the best univer­sity, his chil­dren are the best chil­dren — and about ev­ery­thing that was so sig­nif­i­cant to him. He talked about his con­ver­sa­tions with God and the dreams no­body else can see un­til they come true. And he talked about how prayer helped pro­pel the Ravens through the ad­ver­sity of the sea­son to the Su­per Bowl. It was all very dra­matic. Why couldn’t he just say that, as a fel­low par­ent, he felt deeply for the fam­i­lies of the two men who died that night, all those years ago? Well, he didn’t. He was asked how much of his past should fac­tor in his legacy. He an­swered that.

“Ev­ery­body here has a past,” he said, star­ing straight ahead. “It’s what you do with it. It’s what you do with your fu­ture. It ain’t what you do with your past, your past is what’s be­hind you. It’s what you do with your fu­ture that’s most im­por­tant … and based off the im­pact of me touch­ing peo­ple’s lives, it’s the ul­ti­mate. So, I don’t look back. I look for­ward. Be­cause ev­ery­thing that’s be­hind me is be­hind me. Ev­ery­thing that’s in front of me is what God’s pre­de­ter­mined to be in front of me.”

Ray Lewis will leave foot­ball on his own terms. He will leave a com­pli­cated legacy be­hind. He has been try­ing to move away from that side­walk in At­lanta for a long time. He does not in­tend to stop.

SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IM­AGES

Ravens line­backer Ray Lewis was all smiles at Su­per Bowl Me­dia Day at the Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome on Tues­day in New Or­leans. How­ever, Lewis did not want to go into great de­tail about the dou­ble mur­der in 2000 in which he pleaded guilty to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

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