When broached the question about coaches potentially talking to him about coming off the field in certain spots — such as third-down passing situations — Lewis was politely hearing none of it, citing only times when he had been injured.
“They try to tell you the smart thing to do, and you kind of do the opposite,” Lewis said. “Like when I separated my shoulder, I knew I had done something bad to it, but the game was more important at that time. I jumped down onto the field in Cleveland and starting doing pushups. I said I felt good enough to go back in, until I got that hit again, and I was like, ‘OK, I think I need to come sit down.’ Those are the conversations you have.”
It’s not an easy proposition for coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to handle. If Lewis isn’t going to come off the field, then it’s up to the defensive coach to put the linebacker in the optimum position to help the team — or at least not harm it — in passing situations. Perhaps it’s as simple as allowing linebacker Jameel McClain to line up against running backs lined up in the slot or as a wide receiver while Lewis chases after the quarterback as he’s done on different occasions over the years.
A factor many have failed to consider has been the declining play of the defensive line due to injuries. Increased pressure up front would go a long way in masking Lewis’ deficiencies in coverage by preventing the quarterback from going through his progressions and finding check-downs.
Or, maybe it is as simple as an extra week off for Lewis to rest his ailing toe and return to a more acceptable level of pass coverage the Ravens can live with.
Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Lewis needs an assist in his losing battle against time after years of defying his age. His competitive nature burns as strongly as it ever has, but he would benefit from a crafty cornerman to aid in the final rounds against an unbeatable opponent.
Make no mistake, it’s clear Lewis isn’t ready to throw in the towel. At least, not yet.
“That’s why you come back every week, week-in and week-out, and say, ‘You know what? [This] week, I will be better than I was last week,’” Lewis said. “That’s all you can do. That’s what keeps your longevity going the way it goes.”
Remember, we’re talking about a man who was told he was too small to play middle linebacker coming out of college, a warrior whose bum shoulders were supposedly going to shorten his career 10 years ago, and a legend who supposedly couldn’t get off blocks five or six seasons ago. Whenever the odds have been against him, he finds a way to surprise you.
Even at age 36, would it surprise you if he does it again?