Sharpe lays down nice block for R. Lewis


Receiver implores media to `give him fair shake'

Theismann is at practice

January 25, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Shannon Sharpe recorded the first block of the Super Bowl yesterday.

Watching another round of questioning with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Sharpe unexpectedly stepped in to pick up the media blitz. The veteran tight end stood behind Lewis, placing his hands on both of Lewis' shoulders, and vented for a couple of minutes.

"I said this before and I'll say it 1,000 times: If he had not been Ray Lewis, if he had not been an All-Pro player, Ray Lewis would have never, ever been implicated," Sharpe said. "That's how a lot of people make names for themselves. They took longer time to charge Ted Bundy, who killed 30 people. It took them 24 hours to charge this man.

"I just wish all the media would print him being Defensive Player of the Year, him being the best defensive player in the entire NFL with the same passion, with the same prejudice that you run that. That's all he asks. Give him a fair shake."

Sharpe then finished by saying, "So now we have the best player in the league and not one time have you mentioned anything about the Giants in the Super Bowl or the Ravens in the Super Bowl. It's `Ray, what was it like when you were in jail?' What do you think it was like? The man was fighting for his life, his livelihood, all the things that were going to be taken away from him - that's what it's like. Imagine if someone was going to take your life away from you."

After Sharpe walked off, Lewis tried to put the significance of his friend's defense into words.

"That's kind of special," Lewis said. "Shannon is, regardless of what you can say about Shannon Sharpe, he's going to speak from the heart. To have a guy around your back, it's great. There is no feeling like that."

Theismann joins practice

The Ravens got down to business yesterday with a one-hour, 50-minute practice in shoulder pads at the University of South Florida, their first since arriving.

"I wanted to set a tempo," coach Brian Billick said of the decision to work in pads. "We had scaled it down last week, but now they are refreshed and ready to go. It did get a little feisty out there, but we got that taken care of and ratcheted it down a bit."

All players practiced, including strong safety Kim Herring. Out the last two games with an ankle sprain, Herring is listed as probable on the injury report.

Running back Jamal Lewis, slowed down by a knee injury he suffered against Denver, looked sharp in the workout. "The time off was huge for him," Billick said.

ESPN analyst and ex-Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was invited by Billick to the practice, and participated in seven-on-seven drills with the scout team. Theismann completed four of six passes, hitting Marcus Nash on a deep ball.

Billick introduced Theismann to the team at the end of practice as the only person in the preseason who predicted the Ravens would advance to the Super Bowl.

In addition to Herring, linebackers Peter Boulware (shoulder) and Cornell Brown (thigh) and wide receiver Billy Davis (knee) are also listed as probable.

Trading pens for pads

The Ravens were generally enthused about putting on their shoulder pads and hitting the field.

Cornerback James Trapp was more than prepared to trade the glamour and glitz of Super Bowl week for the X's and O's of football.

"We understand what the purpose of this week is for," the eighth-year veteran said. "You get in this media society, and you get a little relaxed. We understand that we are here to play football."

Running back Priest Holmes said running through the game plan will help the players forget about the traveling and the quest to get tickets for friends and family.

"I think on Monday and Tuesday, there were a lot of other things that we were thinking about," Holmes said. "Now it's Wednesday. It's about getting back to work and getting back to our routine."

Shutout anyone?

Before traveling to Tampa, Ray Lewis asked director of player development Earnest Byner to check if there's ever been a shutout in a Super Bowl. When Byner told him no, Lewis began thinking of making history.

"It's not nothing that's far-fetched," Lewis said. "It's something we can accomplish."

Lewis, offense defended

Coach Brian Billick said he was pleased with the way his team dealt with the media day at Raymond James Stadium on Tuesday. In particular, he lauded Lewis, who fielded countless questions about his murder trial last year.

"He handled it with a huge amount of class, even though a lot of people tried to get him not to," Billick said.

Billick came to the defense of his offense and its well-documented troubles even amid a 10-game winning streak.

"We need to look at the facts," he started. "When this offense needed to go 80 yards, it went 80 yards. When this offense needed to respond to Tennessee driving up the field to change the momentum of the game, it did that."

Billick also defended Tony Banks, who was relieved of his starting quarterback duties during a slump in which Baltimore went a month without scoring a touchdown.

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