Broken bone shows heart of the Ravens

Ravens 31, Bengals 13

Nfl Week 14

December 08, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

IT WAS A GREAT play Adalius Thomas made on Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna. Dropping back to pass with 1:26 left in the first half, Kitna had no chance against the Ravens linebacker. Thomas sacked Kitna for a 10-yard loss, forcing a fumble.

There was the football, loose and skittering on the ground. It was within one Olympic dive of Thomas' big, flying body. So Thomas dived.

"The ball was loose," Thomas said. "I was going to pick it up and run, then Ray came out of nowhere. They said it was Ray. I'll have to see the tape because I had no idea, but he fell on my arm."

Unfortunately, just like Kitna had no chance against Thomas, Thomas stood no chance against Ray Lewis.

"When he hit, I felt it. It hurt. A lot," Thomas said.

Funny thing is, Lewis never saw Thomas, either, even though Thomas is 270 pounds.

"Nothing. Just the football," Lewis said.

"That's all you do. I just go after the ball. That's one thing about the philosophy of our defense. We just fly to the football. My heart goes out to A.D. When I saw his tears, I wanted to cry," said Lewis.

You get the picture. It wasn't pretty. No Bengal was spared a dose of pain in the Ravens' 31-13 pummeling of Cincinnati.

Not Kitna (23-for-31 for 214 yards, two interceptions, two lost fumbles). Not running back Corey Dillon (11 carries, 45 yards). Not receiver Chad Johnson (two catches for 15 yards).

Definitely not the Bengals' new coach, Marvin Lewis, who watched a fairytale season take a deflating hit at the hands of his former defensive pupils. "They won the game. I'm in Cincinnati now," Lewis said, teeth gritted. "They did a good job."

Likewise, at least one Raven had to take a licking en route to the Ravens' victory. That left Ray Lewis to dig out a rare inspirational speech from his endless supply of brimstone.

What do you say to a guy whose arm you just broke, which is what happened when Lewis collided with Thomas as the two dived for the ball. Thomas' elbow was dislocated, and the training staff popped it into place as he lay on the freezing field.

"When they popped it back in, it felt a lot better. I just asked if I could go back in," Thomas said.

No dice, said the medical crew. In the locker room, X-rays revealed a fracture that likely will require surgery.

Lewis felt badly. On the sideline, teammates said Lewis was second-guessing himself for diving on the ball - a fumble the Ravens wound up not recovering. But Lewis' message included more than a simple apology. There was the big picture, and for a defense that looks a lot like the one that steamrolled to a Super Bowl championship, it's about winning.

"When I saw A.D. on the sideline later, I just told him to keep your head up. I told him we all go through it. I told him I had a dislocated elbow three years ago. I know we're going to need him as a team leader so make sure he stays uplifted," Lewis said.

What does it say about an NFL team that defensive players will break each other's arms to make a play?

It says you are the Ravens.

It says you are the Ray Lewis Ravens who, at 8-5, are now alone on top and in control of the AFC North.

It says the playoffs are as tantalizing and tasty as next Sunday's gimme game in Oakland against a team Raiders coach Bill Callahan has already called the dumbest team in football. It says you are sorry, as Lewis said after his signature aggressive style broke Thomas' arm.

The Ravens called the hit Lewis put on Thomas part of the game. Anyone else would take it as a sign that the Ravens' pre-game music must be Ike and Tina Turner's version of Proud Mary, the one where Tina proclaims: "We never ever do nothing nice and easy."

"We got that guy No. 52, man," said cornerback Chris McAlister. "He's not going to let you come out relaxed in practice, games. You can imagine what practice is like, but games? That's when it's worse with No. 52, come game time."

There's a mountain of videotape that highlights the bone-crushing method by which the Ravens pummeled their surprisingly closest division rival.

Most of the clips depict the hits the Ravens laid on Kitna. He was sacked so many times - six - that he could bag groceries for Giant in his next career.

Thomas sacked Kitna twice before getting hurt; rookie Terrell Suggs got two and so did veteran Peter Boulware.

Unfortunately, there will also be the hit Lewis made on Thomas.

"Losing A.D. is going to be crucial to our defense. He's a versatile player. He can get down and play inside the front four, and he can also stand up and play linebacker. And he's a big part of our special teams. Not having him is going to impact us, but I'm pretty sure whoever has to step up will get the job done," McAlister said.

But love means never having to say you're sorry, at least from Thomas' point of view. Somehow, he was smiling, which wasn't easy considering he was also wincing in pain.

"Hey, no love lost between me and Ray," Thomas said.

"He came up and apologized to me. It's not like he came out and said `I'm going to break A.D.'s arm today.' There's nothing but love, because we're doing what we love to do, and that's play football," Thomas said.

And winning, Ray Lewis/Ravens style.

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