Beefier R. Lewis hungry for another Super Bowl run

Ravens Training Camp

August 01, 2004|By MIKE PRESTON

RAY LEWIS says everything is physically in place for him to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl again. The weight is up, the shoulders are fine, and the Pro Bowl inside linebacker hasn't felt this good since he was a teenager.

Oh, this could be an interesting ride to the postseason, and afterward.

"All the pieces have come together again for me to physically dominate, and get us back to the Super Bowl," Lewis said. "This is going to be another special year."

And if it becomes truly special, will Lewis ask for a contract extension?

He just smiles.

Lewis is happy and confident because it's the first time in two seasons he has had a full offseason to train. A dislocated left shoulder during the fourth game in 2002 forced Lewis to miss 11 of the final 12 games in what up to that point was perhaps his finest season.

Lewis had another strong season in 2003, leading the team with 225 tackles, but he played the second half with a bruised right shoulder and wore a brace in the final four games. There were times when Lewis was overpowered, and those came before he put on the brace.

Lewis confirmed yesterday that he played anywhere from 237 to 239 pounds last season, largely because he couldn't lift weights last summer. During the Ravens' Super Bowl season in 2000, Lewis weighed 255 pounds, with most of the bulk in the bottom half of his torso.

He reported to training camp Thursday at 245, and wants to stay within the 245-to-250 range.

"Last season, I didn't lift at all," Lewis said. "I lost so much weight, so much mass. Even though I dealt out more punishment, I took more than any time during my career.

"But this offseason, I've channeled my energy where it was needed the most. I won't allow my body fat to get below seven percent. I've always done a lot of cardio work, so I didn't do anything with my legs. But I started doing more work, almost every day, with dumbbells to isolate on my arms, back and shoulder areas. I started doing more pushups and ab work."

So, the Ravens have a bigger Ray Lewis this season. The upper body is still cut, but there is more bulk. Maybe no one on the Ravens knows the condition of Lewis' shoulders better than teammate Ed Reed, who spent the summer working out with Lewis on Florida beaches.

According to Reed, Lewis was at full tilt with full motion and full range in both shoulders and arms.

"These were mind, body and soul workouts," said Reed, a Pro Bowl safety about to enter his third season. "He was as strong as he could go, there was no limit [lifting weights]. There was no pain because we monitored it well. If there was pain, we were going to tell him to stop, but there was none. It was different circumstances compared to a year ago, and last season when he had the bruise. Ray has had a full season to train, to rehab. I'm sure he is going to have one of the best years he has ever had."

Ravens outside linebacker Cornell Brown said: "He has more energy than ever. I think he is bigger up top, which shows he has been working hard. Seeing the way he approaches the games makes you want to approach it in the same way."

Defensive end Tony Weaver said: "If anything, he is certainly stronger than he has been the last two years."

Lewis' work ethic hasn't changed on the field. Every drill is at full speed. There are few times when he isn't talking on the field; either positioning teammates, calling out tendencies or ridiculing the offense because of a foiled play.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan spends as much time talking with Lewis than with any defensive assistants. Almost every play, almost every call seems to revolve around Lewis. Nolan often refers to this as "Ray's World."

"Ray is a natural leader," Weaver said. "I don't know if he goes out there and tries to be a leader, but he can't help it because of the work ethic. I think he is in Super Bowl form already."

Another Super Bowl title is all Lewis talks about. He has been named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad six times. He is one of only six players to have won multiple Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year awards. But Lewis wants a Most Valuable Player award and a second Super Bowl ring before he turns 30 in May.

If that happens, Lewis, who says he has three years remaining on his current contract, is expected to ask the Ravens for a contract extension and a signing bonus that would surpass the $34.5 million recently given to Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.

And why not?

Lewis is the unquestioned leader of the Ravens, and the most intimidating and dominating force in the league. Eight years of playing in the league may have slowed him down, but a Lewis at 90 percent is still better than most of the league's players. Manning hasn't won a title. Lewis would have won two.

"It's just a matter of us putting the pieces together, just like it was in 1999, transferring into 2000," Lewis said. "We have that team again now, so why shouldn't we go for it? After we win it, then we'll see what happens."

Lewis then starts smiling again.

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