Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ray Lewis is unstoppable

To his credit, he apologized afterwards.

Comcast's Tom Curran wanted to ask Ray Lewis whether there was urgency for the Baltimore Ravens as they closed out a tremendous decade, a decade that started with a Super Bowl win and has included six playoff appearances, five 10-win seasons and two trips to the AFC title game. He wanted to ask Lewis -- OK, to be more specific, he wanted Lewis to say that, yes, he and Ed Reed and Todd Heap and Kelly Gregg and the veteran members of this Ravens team felt some urgency to make another Super Bowl run before the grains of sand finished their tumble through their respective hourglasses.

They're old, in other words, and their time is running out -- and with their Super Bowl win now almost a decade old, Curran wanted to see if Lewis felt like his chance was about to pass him by.

"Is there a level of, 'Hey, we don't have a lot of time left?'" Curran asked.

That, however, touched a nerve with Lewis. That got Lewis going.

"I don’t know," Lewis said. "I don’t know. I totally disagree with you on that. I think it’s one simple thing: Winning means a lot. The numbers don’t. We’re still the No. 2 or No. 3 defense in the league, no matter how we started. You look around the league and I hear you guys talk about, 'You know, you don’t have a lot of time left.' Brett Favre is probably playing better than any rookie quarterback or any max-year quarterback who’s signed for all of his money. Charles Woodson is probably playing the best football played out of every cornerback in the National Football League, you know?

"You look at all of these old veterans who are the playing the game the way the game is played. I always tell people that you can talk about time winding down, but if you look at championships and you look at the most consistent people, it follows wisdom."

Curran opened his mouth to ask a follow-up question at this point. Lewis didn't pause. Lewis kept right on going.

Curran closed his mouth.

"You look back, you look at the Brian Dawkins, you look at a guy who's probably one of the best safeties in the game at 35, 36 years old," Lewis said. "It doesn’t have anything to do with winding down, winding down."

Curran, meanwhile, was whispering to the other reporters assembled around the speakerphone that he wanted to make sure he got a follow-up in there. Everyone else nodded. We're courteous people.

Lewis kept right on cruising.

"Rod Woodson was 36 when he was playing his best football," he said. "If you get away from listening to all that, you realize you only get better as you get older -- barring injury. Injury is one thing, but that window only closes when you say that you’re done."

"Yeah," Curran said, trying to cut in.

"If something happens tragically that slows you down, that’s something different," Lewis said, pressing on, "but, over the years, I’ve been watching and studying football, the people who are having the most success are the ones that have been in the league a long time and have been very consistent."

Lewis paused to take a breath. Curran pounced.

"Junior Seau would probably be another example of that..."

This wasn't the follow-up question. This was a transition to the follow-up question -- one that probably would have related to the way Seau keeps coming back to the Patriots because he wants so desperately to get a Super Bowl title before he really hangs it up for good, the way Seau feels his time running out and thus plays with the type of urgency a younger player might not.

All Lewis heard was an example of another player capable of playing football at a high level at an advanced age -- and that got him going again.

"Exactly," he said. "Exactly. Junior is another example of that. If you grab all the guys around the league that have had the most success -- even a Peyton Manning with these young quarterbacks and all of these other young people coming in, he’s still the wise one."

"But what I was driving at..."

"He’s still the one that has the most success," Lewis said, steamrolling the question the way he steamrolls quarterbacks. "And as you go down the line and you rate each player, per position, based on the age and based on what they do and how they do it, you will come back every time and say, 'Give me an older veteran player because I know what it is he is going to give me. I know what he's going to give me. I know what he is going to give me later in the season. I know what he's going to give me before the season.' That’s something I have kept in contact with, just how many old guys who are really seasoned veterans just loving the game."

"Do you... team-wide..."

"Like I said," said Lewis, who must have some mechanism by which he breathes while he talks because he hadn't yet taken a breath, "to this day, Charles Woodson, to me, I think, is playing the best football a cornerback has played in a long time. But you look at him, like, 'Oh, man, he's getting old.'"

"Team-wide, Ray..."

"... and then the way he has his defense playing," Lewis finished off. "I just think a lot of that is misconstrued."

"But, team-wide, real quick, the Ravens have had one Super Bowl appearance in this decade and went to the AFC championship last year," Curran pushed ahead, wisely or not. "How urgent is it for guys like you and Ed Reed to get there and really culminate a great decade? How important is this playoff run?"

"This playoff run, I think we just have to -- and this is something that we talk about -- enjoy the ride," Lewis said. "Enjoy the ride. It’s just football. It doesn’t change. It’s just football. Nobody is asking us to go build a rocket or go fly to the moon. No, they're just saying to go play football. Football doesn’t change and that is the beauty of the way us guys understand it."

"R--" another reporter cut in, mistakenly thinking there was an opportunity to ask a question on a different topic.

No dice.

"We went to the AFC championship last year, and we lost it," Lewis said, as unstoppable as ever. "Guess what? We are back in it again for another opportunity to go back, and all you can ask for is an opportunity. That what me and all those guys, all we talk about is just an opportunity. Bottom line: If you can get that opportunity, grab the moment, man. Don’t let everybody push you away from it: 'There's so much pressure. What if this? what if that?' Forget about the 'What if this?' and just go have fun and play football. That’s what we’re focusing on and wherever we end up, that’s where we end up."

Lewis then took a breath.

Three or four different reporters grabbed the moment.


Curran, meanwhile, looked up and mouthed, "Sorry..."

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