Posted on 04 February 2012 by WNSTV
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Posted on 04 February 2012 by Glenn Clark
It was another incredible week of Super Bowl coverage for us here at AM1570 WNST.net. Both “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester and Luke Jones as well as “The Reality Check” with Glenn Clark emanated from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis every day. “Nasty” Nestor Aparicio was also part of the daily fun.
In case you missed anything we did, here is a list of the guest segments available for your consumption right now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.
–Adam Sandler (Actor)
–Matt Birk (Baltimore Ravens C)
–Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts Head Coach, former Ravens DC)
–Curt Schilling (Former Baltimore Orioles/Boston Red Sox/Arizona Diamondbacks/Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher)
–Shannon Sharpe (Former Baltimore Ravens/Denver Broncos Hall of Fame TE, CBS)
–AJ Green (Cincinnati Bengals WR)
–Ingrid & Sarah Harbaugh (Wives of John & Jim Harbaugh)
–Jim Schwartz (Detroit Lions Head Coach)
–Mike Smith (Atlanta Falcons Head Coach)
–Marcus Allen (Hall of Fame RB)
–Larry The Cable Guy (Comedian)
–Priest Holmes (Former Baltimore Ravens/Kansas City Chiefs RB)
–Vanilla Ice (Musician/Actor)
–Will Forte (Actor/Comedian/Saturday Night Live alum)
–Lynn Swann (Former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame WR)
–Greg Ballard (Mayor of Indy)
–Dustin Keller (New York Jets TE)
–Jason Taylor (Former Miami Dolphins DE)
–Frank Caliendo (Comedian)
–Jay Mohr (Actor/Comedian)
–David Feherty (Golf Channel)
–Mike Haynes (Former New England Patriots Hall of Fame CB)
–Brian Billick (Former Baltimore Ravens coach FOX/NFL Network)
–Herm Edwards (Former New York Jets/Kansas City Chiefs coach, ESPN)
–Dick Vermeil (Former Super Bowl winning St. Louis Rams coach)
–Marv Levy (Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame coach)
–Joe Theismann (Former Washington Redskins QB, NFL Network)
–Lorenzo Neal (Former Baltimore Ravens/San Diego Chargers FB)
–Rich Gannon (Former Oakland Raiders QB, CBS)
–Antonio Pierce (Former NY Giants LB)
–Jack Youngblood (Los Angeles Rams Hall of Fame DE)
–Dhani Jones (Former Cincinnati Bengals LB)
–Robbie Gould (Chicago Bears Kicker)
–Morten Anderson (Former New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons Kicker)
–Bonnie Bernstein (ESPN/University of Maryland alum)
–Peter King (SI/NBC)
–Lesley Visser (CBS)
–Sal Paolantonio (ESPN)
–Laura Kaeppeler (Miss America 2012)
–Chrissy Teigen (SI Swimsuit Issue model)
–Will Witherspoon (Tennessee Titans LB)
(More on Page 2…)
Posted on 02 February 2012 by Luke Jones
(Updated: 6:00 a.m.)
With Chuck Pagano moving on to become the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens knew it was only a matter of time before losing an assistant or two from their coaching staff.
The Ravens’ former defensive coordinator has hired Marwan Maalouf to be his special teams coach and Roy Anderson to coach the Indianapolis safeties. Maalouf spent the last four seasons as the top special teams assistant to Jerry Rosburg, and Anderson spent the last three years as a defensive assistant.
While losing two assistants, the Ravens will also gain one with the expected hiring of former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. The Denver Post first reported that Martindale will coach the Ravens’ inside linebackers, replacing Dean Pees, who was promoted to defensive coordinator earlier in the week.
“Don brings extensive pro and college experience to the Ravens, and he has been a defensive coordinator at both levels,” Harbaugh said in an official statement. “He’s known for his hard work, intelligence and thorough teaching, and his players have always responded well to his coaching. He’ll earn the respect of our players. I’m confident about that.”
The 49-year-old Martindale has spent seven years coaching at the NFL level and 18 years of combined experience at the collegiate and pro levels. He was the defensive coordinator for Denver in 2010 after coaching the Broncos’ linebackers in the previous season.
“I am excited to be part of a great team and great organization like the Ravens,” Martindale said. “When I got the call, it was a no-brainer. There has always been a great defense here, led by tremendously talented players and coaches, and I am thrilled to be a part of a proven system.”
With Martindale’s hiring to coach the inside linebackers, Ted Monoachino will serve as the linebackers coach after coaching the outside linebackers the past two seasons for the Ravens. A seven-year coaching veteran, Monachino has been credited by Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs as a major factor for a 14-sack season that’s garnered plenty of consideration for the AP Defensive Player of the Year award.
Posted on 27 January 2012 by Luke Jones
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens made official on Friday what had been anticipated for several days with the promotion of linebackers coach Dean Pees to defensive coordinator and the retaining of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for the 2012 season.
Pees takes the place of former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who was hired as the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the week. The 62-year-old Pees spent the last two seasons as the linebackers coach in Baltimore after serving as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in this league — or at any level — but it’s especially humbling to be one for the Baltimore Ravens,” said Pees, who will take the reins of a unit that allowed the third-fewest points and yards in the league. “The strong tradition here throughout the years, and especially right now, I can’t say enough about our defensive room and what it’s like to even be a part of that.”
The new coordinator ran a similar system in New England to what the Ravens have run over the last several seasons, but Pees quipped that he’s a bigger fan of Baltimore’s defensive scheme. Entering his 40th season in coaching, Pees is looking forward to working with a defense with a unique personality and doesn’t plan on changing what the Ravens defense has been in recent seasons.
Though he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve as noticeably as Pagano, Pees has earned positive reviews from veterans such as Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson over his two seasons in Baltimore.
“The tradition of this defense will continue and it will flourish and it will get even better,” Harbaugh said.
While the decision to promote from within to fill the defensive coordinator job was not surprising — coach John Harbaugh confirmed the Ravens did not look outside the organization to fill the position — the Ravens’ preference to keep Cameron will raise more than a few eyebrows among the many critics of an inconsistent Baltimore offense. The Ravens finished 15th in yards per game and 12th in points scored in 2011.
Many speculated Cameron would not return unless the Ravens advanced to the Super Bowl, but the coordinator was reassured by general manager Ozzie Newsome that his expiring contract would be renewed and he would be returning for a fifth season in Baltimore.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of unfinished business,” said Cameron, whose contract terms are still in the works. “Our focus will be the same: getting better. I think we got better in some areas, but we’ve got some areas we need to continue to improve in. It’s exciting.”
Cameron’s relationship with quarterback Joe Flacco has come under scrutiny over the last few seasons, with growing speculation the two have not shared the same visions for the Baltimore offense. However, Cameron has a strong relationship with Harbaugh, who has been pleased with his offensive coordinator over the last four seasons.
Both Harbaugh and Cameron pointed to the dramatic changes made to the offense without the benefit of a full offseason to adjust. Key veterans such as wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap were cut just days before the start of training camp. The offensive line also featured only two starts playing the same position at which they played in 2010 while shifting to a zone-blocking scheme to improve the running game.
“It was a forgone conclusion to me,” Harbaugh said about the decision to keep Cameron. “If you look at the way our offense played this year and the job our players did on offense and our coaches did, I was excited about it.”
Though Cameron will continue to be the architect of the Ravens’ offensive, the Ravens will evaluate the infrastructure of the offensive coaching staff to create more productivity in 2012. Harbaugh confirmed the Ravens will consider hiring a quarterbacks coach after the position went unfilled after Jim Zorn was fired following the 2010 season.
The Ravens are still in the process of filling Pees’ vacated position as the linebackers coach.
Posted on 25 January 2012 by Luke Jones
In what’s easily been the most frustrating week in the history of the franchise, the Ravens will now need to look for a new defensive coordinator as Chuck Pagano has been hired as the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Leading the Ravens to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking in his first season as coordinator, Pagano interviewed with Indianapolis on Tuesday before being offered the job on Wednesday. The 51-year-old spent three seasons as the Baltimore secondary coach before being promoted to replace former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison last offseason.
“It’s difficult to leave the Ravens but I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano said to the Ravens’ official website. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”
Pagano was extremely popular with his defensive players and brought a more aggressive play-calling style than Mattison, helping the Ravens improve from a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010 to an AFC-best 48 this season.
“He just had an inkling for [making the right calls],” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo told AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday afternoon. “More than anything, he wasn’t going to rely on just going vanilla and saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to beat everybody just going vanilla.’ That’s what coach Mattison liked to do.”
The Ravens sent four defensive starters to the Pro Bowl this year, including linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and free safety Ed Reed.
Pagano will be introduced to the Indianapolis media in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. The Colts fired general manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell following a disastrous 2-14 season without quarterback Peyton Manning.
“We are so happy for Chuck, [his wife] Tina and their daughters,” coach John Harbaugh said in an official statement. “We are proud of him. Like me, Chuck grew up in the game and loves it. We will miss him and thank him for all he did for the Ravens.”
The 51-year-old will likely usher in a new era with Indianapolis primed to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in April’s draft. Ayanbadejo said the Colts will immediately take to Pagano’s infectious personality.
“He was one of those guys [where] it was like he was out on the field of battle with you and you’d never want to let him down, because he’s such a good guy,” Ayanbadejo said. “He’s also a family guy and a great person. You really felt like you knew him, and more than anything, you just didn’t want to let him down.”
Pagano had previous stints as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders and also coached at several colleges, including most recently at the University of North Carolina before being hired by Harbaugh in 2008.
The Ravens will also wonder what impact Pagano’s departure might have on their list of defensive players with expiring contracts. Linebackers Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain, and Ayanbadejo, defensive end Cory Redding, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney are all set to become unrestricted free agents and could now view Indianapolis as a viable alternative to the Ravens, who will not have a great deal of salary cap space.
After former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard joined him in the Big Apple as free-agent signings.
Baltimore will now have its fourth defensive coordinator in five years after Rex Ryan, Mattison, and Pagano all held the job under Harbaugh. The most logical in-house candidate to fill the role would be linebackers coach Dean Pees, who was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009 before moving on to Baltimore.
“I don’t think you’ll see any letdown if Dean Pees takes over,” said Ayanbadejo, who described Pees’ relationship with players as one based more on respect than the emotional Pagano. “You might even see a better defense if Dean Pees takes over because he likes things done a certain way, and he’s really particular about the way he does things.”
Pagano becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in the history of the franchise to depart for a head coaching position elsewhere, joining Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Ryan.
Posted on 24 January 2012 by Luke Jones
After a successful first season as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano will interview for the head coaching vacancy for the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday.
The Baltimore defense finished third in the league in fewest points and yards allowed while sending linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Pagano was praised for his close relationship with players and his aggressive play-calling approach was a major reason why the Ravens increased their sack total from a franchise-low 27 in 2010 to 48 in 2011.
Pagano replaced Greg Mattison, who spent two years as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator before taking the same position with the University of Michigan last offseason.
Indianapolis has reportedly interviewed former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and would like to have a new head coach in place this week, according to Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Should Pagano become the Colts’ head coach, in-house candidates to replace him could include defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, linebackers coach Deen Pees, and outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino. Before joining the Ravens’ coaching staff in 2010, Pees served as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots for four seasons (2006-09).
Former Baltimore defensive coordinators to received head coaching positions elsewhere include Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Rex Ryan.
Posted on 21 January 2012 by Luke Jones
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sixty minutes will decide whether the Ravens advance to Indianapolis or find themselves falling short for the fourth season in a row.
Standing in their way is the high-powered New England Patriots, winners of nine straight including last week’s 45-10 blowout of the Denver Broncos in the divisional round. The Ravens own a 1-6 all-time record against New England and are 1-4 in Foxborough.
However, that one victory came in the form of a 33-14 beatdown of the Patriots two years ago in the wild card round of the playoffs as Ray Rice ran for a playoff franchise-record 159 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The performance handed New England its first home playoff defeat since 1978 as the Ravens forced quarterback Tom Brady to commit four turnovers.
What happened on that day doesn’t amount to much as far as what transpires at Gillette Stadium on Sunday – for example, the personnel has changed dramatically for the New England defense – but the victory does provide a psychological boost at a place where many teams are intimidated by the Patriots’ mystique.
The AFC championship features the ultimate contrast in styles as New England represents the new era of high-scoring, pass-happy offense while Baltimore still thrives on its strong defense to win ugly year in and year out.
Here’s what will happen in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon …
1. Needing to make Tom Brady as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket, Terrell Suggs will lead the charge with two sacks. For all the talk of sticking with the Patriots’ talented tight ends and the video-game production of Wes Welker the key to beating the New England offense is pressuring the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Ravens have done it effectively over their last three games against the Patriots, sacking Brady nine times. Suggs leads the charge for the pass rush and will need to come up big against New England left tackle Matt Light on Sunday. Suggs has been quiet over the last month, collecting only one sack over the last four games, but the Pro Bowl linebacker was a one-man wrecking crew in the 2010 postseason when he collected five sacks in two games. The 29-year-old has posted 10 sacks in his 10 career playoff games. The New England offensive line allowed 32 sacks in the regular season, but the unit is banged up with left guard Logan Mankins dealing with a knee issue and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer ailing with back and foot injuries. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has been masterful in finding the proper balance between sending extra defenders and dropping enough men into coverage, and he’ll need his best plan yet on Sunday against the most explosive offense in the AFC.
2. The Ravens will not be able to stop tight end Rob Gronkowski from making big plays, but Lardarius Webb will hold wide receiver Wes Welker in check. Analysts and fans have spent the better part of the week trying to figure out how the Baltimore defense will account for the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski. Pagano will call for bracketed coverage as much as possible and likely entrust strong safety Bernard Pollard to hold his own in one-on-one coverage in certain instances. However, it’s clear that few have had any luck against the second-year tight end who caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season. In fairness, the Ravens have held their own against tight ends despite questionable pass-coverage ability for their linebackers, but Gronkowski’s combination of size and talent is something they haven’t seen all season. What could be the great equalizer in creating stops against the New England offense is Webb’s coverage against Wes Welker, who caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards this season. The third-year cornerback hasn’t allowed a touchdown pass all season and can play Welker when he lines up on the outside or from the slot since Webb moves inside for the nickel package. Even if the Ravens allow a couple touchdowns to Gronkowski, Webb’s coverage skills should keep Welker from going off against the secondary, which would be a major feather in the hat of the defense.
3. Whichever team fares better on third down will win on Sunday. It’s a simple thought, but the Ravens must limit the possessions of the New England offense has much as possible. To do that, they’ll need positive yardage on first and second down to set up third-and-manageable situations. Baltimore ranked seventh in third-down conversion percentage (42.4 percent) while the New England defense allowed conversions on third down at 43.1 percent of the time, ranking 28th in the NFL. Rice and tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will be critical in moving the chains on third down and keeping the Patriots off the field. On the flip side, the New England offense ranked fifth in third-down efficiency (45.9 percent), but the Ravens were second in the league in third-down defense with opponents converting only 32.1 percent of the time. Of course, the Patriots can score so quickly that third down isn’t even a factor on some drives, but the Ravens will be more meticulous with their opportunities while mixing in an occasional vertical shot against the Patriots’ secondary. An inordinate amount of turnovers one way or the other could always negate the significance of third-down conversions, but the team that can move the chains and force punts will likely raise the Lamar Hunt trophy at the end of the afternoon.
Posted on 20 January 2012 by Ryan Chell
If anyone knows how to stop a high-powered offense in the New England Patriots, you’re going to have to go right to an insightful source to find that answer.
Unfortunately for a tight-knit organization led by Bill Belichick-the master of secrets, there aren’t a lot of those guys who have that kind of information to hand out.
But WNST’s own Thyrl Nelson caught up with a guy who used to line up in the backfield behind the Patriots future Hall-of-Famer in quarterback Tom Brady in running back Laurence Maroney on Thursday.
Maroney, who was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2006 out of Minnesota, is currently a free agent and is anxiously trying to work his way back onto an NFL team for next year.
Having been a part of Patriot-style offenses in New England and Denver run by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he knows the team very well.
Nelson asked Maroney how the Ravens should handle the Patriots if he was a consultant, and Maroney had a quick answer.
You have go get Tom Brady out of rhythm by bringing the pressure on the blitz.
“The first thing to do is really blitz and keep Brady uncomfortable,” Maroney told Nelson. “He’s going to sit there and read defenses and get comfortable. He can pick you apart once the momentum’s going and the lineman get going.”
Maroney said it was his role as Patriots back to be the final nail in the coffin for opposing defenses.
“That’s what starts the running game and it just starts to trickle down.”
But at the same time though, Maroney told Raven nation to understand this. John Harbaugh and Chuck Pagano may have the greatest defensive game-plan available to them, but Tom Brady is going to make some plays just because of his game smarts and preparation.
“Brady is one of the smartest…if not the smartest quarterback that I’ve played with,” Maroney said. “He’s just going to sit there if you give him time with the type of receivers and tight ends he has. They’re going to find a way to get open. And he’s going to find a way to get them the ball.”
Obviously as a running back, Maroney pushed across the idea of pacing the game for the Ravens by handing the ball off to Ray Rice in the second half should the Ravens jump ahead.
“Ray Rice is definitely a great running back,” Maroney said, “that’s definitely a proven guy in this league. It’s going to be difficult-especially the wild card game that I was last with them-and he definitely showed when he broke the game out when he ran for 80 yards that he’s a game-changer. If you don’t control that guy, he’s definitely going to do his thing.”
If the Ravens are on their game, Maroney says-you can’t ever count them out.
“You can never overlook the Ravens cause you can tell the history,” Maroney said. “This is a team you can’t count out, especially with their defense. They have one of the best defenses that you can’t overlook them and you have to be ready and prepared for that game.”
And who knows-with Ray Rice scheduled to be a free agent and the uncertainty regarding the future career of backup running back Ricky Williams, could the Ravens maybe be interested in the seldom-used, 26-year first-round pick?
He’ll welcome any opportunity to prove himself yet again to an NFL team.
“I just want a job,” Maroney said. “I just want to get back in the league.”
“I’m only 26 years old. I’m still young-this would have only been my sixth-year in the league. I’ve got the fresh legs. I still have a lot to offer to the league.”
WNST thanks Laurence Maroney for joining Thyrl Nelson this week in preparation for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game! Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the full conversation! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!
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Posted on 20 January 2012 by Luke Jones
For more than a decade, one mantra has been held with the highest regard by the Baltimore Ravens in spite of changing trends in the NFL over the last several seasons.
Defense wins championships.
In this current era of 5,000-yard passers, high scoring, and rules that cater to offense, the Ravens’ defensive dominance is considered a dying breed by many. Of course, don’t bother telling that to veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, who is preparing to play in the third AFC championship of his 16-year career and has gone to the playoffs eight times despite never enjoying the luxury of an explosive offense supporting his defense.
“I’ve been doing it for so long, when you do watch how the games are played, nine times out of 10, I just truly believe defense is going to find a way to win the championship,” Lewis said. “You can go back however many years you want to go back, and defenses have a way to come out to make a play that changes the outcome of games.”
In reality, the cliche isn’t true in the purest sense of defense alone winning championships, as even the 2000 Ravens needed a run-first offense that took care of the football and positioned their defense to impose its will on weaker opponents. The 2011 Ravens clearly enjoy a more productive offensive attack than the Super Bowl XXXV winners but still generally rely on that old-fashioned formula of winning ugly.
For that reason, the media have focused on the high-octane offense of the New England Patriots and have wondered how the Ravens can possibly stop quarterback Tom Brady and a unit that averaged 32.1 points per game this season. In contrast, few of considered the possibility of the New England offense running into a buzz saw of a defense that finished third overall in points and yards allowed in the regular season.
Has the lack of attention — or even a perceived lack of respect — rubbed the Ravens the wrong way as they prepare to travel to Foxborough?
“We always have a chip on our shoulder,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “We’ve always felt this way about ourselves.”
That’s not to say the Ravens don’t respect Brady and the New England offense. The weapons are everywhere, from wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch on the outside to young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez wreaking havoc all over the field.
But much like Lewis’ command of the Ravens defense for the last 16 years, Brady is the mastermind that makes New England the dynamic offense that’s scored 30 or more points in eight of its last nine games, including 45 against Denver in the Patriots’ divisional-round win last Saturday.
“You’ve got your hands full from Day One, before you even step on the field with him, because it’s a film study game with him,” Lewis said. “He wants to [identify] everything that’s coming out and know what you’re in. Your job is to disguise and not show him all of that. It’s a chess match, almost.”
The Baltimore defense and the New England offense provide an interesting juxtaposition. While the former has a reputation of physical play and intimidation and the latter is built on finesse, both units are extremely cerebral, built to deceive and confuse the opposition as much as possible. Adjustments at the line of scrimmage are a regular part of each unit’s plan.
That deception will be critical for the Ravens as Brady tries to dissect coverage and to identify potential blitzes, allowing him to make adjustments on the fly with so many options in the passing game.
“You try to do everything you can to try to disguise and hide what you’re doing,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “At the end of the day, if we just sit and play one or two things and let the tempo of the [Patriots] dictate what we do, then he’ll shred us, he’ll pick us apart. They’re just too good.”
While much time has been spent discussing exactly how the Ravens plan to defend Welker (Webb will draw the assignment in most instances) and the monstrous Gronkowski (a likely combination of a linebacker and safety Bernard Pollard), the true key will be making Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, something Baltimore has been able to do in recent years against the Patriots.
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Posted on 04 January 2012 by Luke Jones
For years, future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis has been fighting an opponent more daunting than the Pittsburgh Steelers, an enemy aiming to take his livelihood no matter how many accolades he collects to suggest otherwise.
It’s a number, one that’s far more intimidating than the No. 52 jersey opponents have lined up against for 16 years. And it’s a battle Lewis cannot win, making him as mortal as the hundreds of men he’s played with and the thousands more with which he’s clashed on the football field.
It’s no secret that Lewis has sparred with Father Time for years. A simple look back at some of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game shows how remarkable it’s been for the Baltimore linebacker to have played at such a high level for such a long time.
Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, and Mike Singletary? Lewis has played significantly longer than all of them. He’s the same age that Packers legend Ray Nitschke was when calling it quits. On the short list of the NFL’s greatest linebackers, only Junior Seau played longer than Lewis has at this point, as the Chargers standout held on long enough to become a shell of the great player he once was.
“Where I am now in my career, I appreciate the game,” Lewis said. “I appreciate the mistakes. I appreciate the ups and the downs because there is always a learning curve that I have already been through many times.”
With the Ravens enjoying a bye week before playing their first home playoff game in five years, much has been opined about Lewis’ decline, particularly in pass coverage. It hasn’t happened over night, mind you, but the turf toe injury that sidelined him four games has shined a spotlight on his diminished skills as opposing teams have attacked Lewis in the passing game with much success.
The debate whether Lewis has lost a step or two has gone on in Baltimore for the last three to four years. The argument always working in the linebacker’s favor was his cerebral approach that may be second to none in the history of professional football. We’ve seen it time and time again when Lewis calls out the opposition’s plays after spending all week dissecting their tendencies in film study.
The viewpoint was always held that whatever Lewis had lost in physical ability he had likely made up for it in experience and football IQ tenfold.
“I would never want to go back to being a young Ray Lewis,” Lewis said. “The young Ray Lewis, he was good, he was good, but he was out of control a lot of times. The way I am now is a much wiser person.”
But, at some point, a declining body can no longer keep up with the blossoming mind. It happens to every professional athlete, as not one has yet to figure out how to avoid one thing: the end of his or her career.
It’s unfair to conclude whether Lewis is at that point, especially with a painful toe injury that’s likely impacting his play substantially, but there’s no denying the end is inching much closer. And for a Ravens team with its best chance to win a Super Bowl in five years, it’s time to offer any assistance it can to help Lewis in this losing fight.
Though it will lead to interesting discussions and decisions following the season, taking Lewis off the field in certain situations is not an option as the Ravens begin their postseason run in less than two weeks. The psychological fracture it would potentially create for a defense built prominently on emotion would be too much to risk, especially considering the roster isn’t exactly breeding linebackers who are strong in pass coverage.