would have been to smile and tell your story. Let the “real” Ray Lewis come out for people to see. When you hide behind “no comment,” people obviously feel like you have something to hide or something to feel ashamed about. If you truly did nothing wrong, then say so.
What made matters worse for Lewis than to play dumb for thousands of media folks with the bright lights shining as well as the millions of football fans—friends and foes, alike – were the actions of his counterparts from New York.
While Lewis was being evasive or just plain mum that day – and some of the pre-press he arrived to see on ESPN was just what head coach Brian Billick called it, “ambulance chasing” – Giants quarterback Kerry Collins, who had been the poster boy for bad behavior with teammates, alcohol, demeanor and racial problems and a total breakdown two years before, was facing the music like a man. Collins talked freely, openly and honestly about his former self and was widely praised not only by the media but also by his peers. For Lewis, there have been no repercussions in his own locker room. Much like Woodson and owner Art Modell, who came to his defense immediately when he was being arraigned in Atlanta, his teammates and peers around the league understood his innocence and embraced him, sight unseen. Ray Lewis is one of the most beloved, respected and likeable guys in the league.
But if he hoped to win over the rest of the world, he missed a golden opportunity, one that may never present itself again. He didn’t owe anyone an explanation – certainly not those who interviewed the families of the victims who called Lewis a murderer and put it on ESPN that night – and he had nothing to “apologize” for. But in one hour on a sunny Tuesday in Tampa, he could have put the entire event to rest forever by using a little intestinal fortitude, honesty and savvy. Instead, the questions remain and the criticism and the damnation will continue.
But Lewis was distant toward almost everyone in the media during the 2000 season, and I took the full brunt of wearing my press badge. Suddenly, after the trial, Ray Lewis and I were no longer friends. He was a football player and I was just another guy in the locker room. It was all I could do to get a handshake or a smile, even after big wins. I never shoved a microphone in his face