Lewis case serves as lesson for Ravens

Player's legal problems an eye-opener, team says

March 30, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Ravens say their players may have learned a valuable lesson as a result of Ray Lewis' legal problems.

Coach Brian Billick and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis echoed that theme after participating in a seminar about the league's off-the-field problems at the NFL's annual March owners meetings yesterday.

In the wake of Ray Lewis' indictment on murder charges in Atlanta the night of the Super Bowl, Billick said, "I'm not trying to paint a bright picture about anything that has to do with Ray because it's a tragic situation, but at the very least it's going to be a graphic example for our players.

"[Because he's] a guy they're all very conversant with, and they have a great deal of respect for, [they know] that there but for the grace of God go I, and you'd better take this opportunity to learn from it regardless of what the outcome is."

Marvin Lewis said Billick was constantly reminding the players during the season whenever a player from another team had problems to warn them of the consequences they could face.

"I think our guys have been opened up to the fact that you are a target when you go out there," Marvin Lewis said. "If something bad happens, they're looking at you. There were only two names that came out in Atlanta, Ray and another ex-NFL player [Melvin Bratton, who wasn't charged].

"He'll have to rebuild his image because of what people know he's all about because he's had to live this nightmare. It's been a bad deal.

"Guilty or innocent, you're looked upon in a negative light right now if you're a professional athlete and you're jammed up in one of these situations.

"Brian's made it clear to our players that when you're acquitted, that's on the back page. When the charges are dropped that's on the back page. When it happens that's on the front page."

The owners and coaches addressed all facets of the situations in a two-hour session. They didn't take any specific action but will continue the discussion at the May meeting in Baltimore.

They even discussed the owners not having a win-at-all cost mentality so the coaches bring in problem players in an attempt to win.

Tony Dungy of Tampa Bay, one of the coaches on the panel, said: "Jim Irsay [Indianapolis Colts owner] got up and talked about knowing, `I've got to give my coach [Jim Mora] some leeway so I don't have to put so much pressure on him to win that he's going to bring in players no matter what because we're just trying to win at all costs."

Herman Edwards, a Tampa Bay assistant, also said they have to stress to the players that it's not a right but a privilege to play in the NFL.

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