Lewis refuses to look back

Ravens linebacker puts trial in the past, looks ahead to game

`A story that is closed'

Super Bowl Xxxv

Ravens Vs. Giants

January 24, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Ray Lewis refused to tackle the past yesterday.

Alternately smiling and defiant during Super Bowl media day at Raymond James Stadium, the Ravens' All-Pro linebacker sat for an hour, answering or deflecting more than 50 questions about his double-murder trial last spring.

"That's the chapter we're trying to get way past," Lewis said. "We're trying to win a Super Bowl. We're not here to focus on Ray Lewis. What Ray Lewis went through was a year ago. Let it go."

But Lewis was more forthcoming when asked about predicting Super Bowl XXXV.

"I would go out on a limb and claim a victory," Lewis said.

Still, Lewis didn't draw yesterday's biggest media crowd - it never dropped below 100 - because reporters wanted to ask about football.

Lewis was charged with two companions in the stabbing deaths of two men in a post-Super Bowl street brawl in Atlanta on Jan. 31. In June, the murder charges against Lewis were dropped after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and received 12 months' probation.

Yesterday, Lewis was barraged by questions about matters ranging from his image to the victims' families.

"I'm not here to try to justify anything that has gone on, because that is a story in my book that is closed, regardless of whatever questions come up," Lewis said. "It's my prerogative to answer, but that's a chapter that's closed."

Dressed in his white Ravens uniform, Lewis had two silver Gucci dog tags hanging on a chain around his neck. One read, "True soldier, gladiator, warrior." The other was inscribed: "This is God's will for my life."

Throughout the interview session, Lewis chuckled and reclined in his chair. But there were times that Lewis tensed after repeatedly declining to answer questions about his past and calling for others dealing with the game. At one point, he gripped the arms of his chair tightly and looked into the distance, saying to himself, "Football, football, football."

Nearly 10 minutes later, another reporter prodded Lewis to talk about the Atlanta murders.

"Here we go again. I knew that was going to come up soon," said Lewis, tapping the table before staring off to the side. "Once again, character, character, character."

He gave one reason for his stance.

"I can keep going over and over," Lewis said. "The most interesting part about it is, I can honestly sit down and give you guys a story. And guess what somebody's going to do? Change the whole thing around, what I said, regardless."

The media blitz on Lewis was preceded by Ravens coach Brian Billick's chastising reporters Monday for their continued questions about the trial. Billick scoffed at the notion that his remarks turned up the heat on Lewis.

"I think those that want to intimate that this was not going to be brought up until I brought it up yesterday is an interesting perspective, to say the least," Billick said. "I wanted to make sure everybody understood what our perspective was going to be, which was simply: We've been through this before."

Lewis agreed with Billick, noting the ESPN interviews with the victims' families that were aired before Monday's news conference. A younger brother of one of the victims pointed to Lewis as a killer.

Although Lewis declined to deliver a message to the families, he did acknowledge sympathy for them.

"I've said that before," Lewis said. "I don't need to keep repeating that, because you all need to follow it up."

Other Ravens players denied that the attention to Lewis' past would distract them.

"Ray is going to address it one time and he's going to leave it alone," said tight end Shannon Sharpe, one of Lewis' closest friends on the team. "We cannot retry this case, nor will we want to. He's been exonerated. Nothing he says is going to make you believe him any more than you already do."

When Lewis was asked how he thinks the public perceives him, he said: "I don't know. You tell me."

The reporter responded that some people might be scared of him.

"Scared of me? You're right," Lewis said. "There are a lot of people scared of me, especially come Sunday."

The session was a continual tug of war as Lewis attempted to steer questions toward the Super Bowl. For Lewis, it was a battle he refused to lose.

"What I went through, you can't get me to think about or talk about that," Lewis said. "Yeah, we're human, and you're sometimes going to get back to it. But that's on my time."

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