Ravens' R. Lewis added to AFC squad LB named 'need' player, joins Ogden in Pro Bowl

January 16, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

In just two seasons, Pittburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher has seen Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis outplay All-Pro center Dermontti Dawson and stuff running back Jerome Bettis one-on-one in the open field.

So when Cowher had the chance to name a "need" player yesterday to the AFC squad for the Feb. 2 Pro Bowl against the NFC, he chose Lewis, a second-year player who will make his first appearance in the game. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ken Norton was named to the NFC squad yesterday as a need player.

Lewis originally was chosen as an alternate behind San Diego's Junior Seau and Pittsburgh's Levon Kirkland, which partially qualified him as a need player. That player must also be a defensive end or linebacker. Lewis will join teammate Jonathan Ogden, starting at offensive tackle, on the AFC squad. Both players were first-round draft picks in 1996.

"It's been a long process, but I'm happy as can be," Lewis said. "It becomes even more special because I was selected by Bill Cowher, who has a lot of respect around the league. He knows when he sees a player who just loves to play the game, and I've had several conversations with him on the field. He's even approached me after the game to tell me how well I've played."

Lewis, out of the University of Miami, led the NFL with 205 tackles. He also recorded four sacks, knocked down nine passes, forced a fumble and had one interception. He is easily one of the fastest linebackers in the league.

"Ray deserved to go," said Ravens safety and special teams ace Bennie Thompson. "After the season he had, the numbers he put up, I don't know of a more deserving linebacker in the league."

Washington Redskins cornerback Cris Dishman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety John Lynch and 49ers linebacker Lee Woodall were named to the NFC team as replacements yesterday.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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