R. Lewis sets the record straight

Ravens linebacker backs Billick, says he has apologized to his teammates

June 08, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY AND EDWARD LEE | JAMISON HENSLEY AND EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTERS

Ray Lewis is silent no longer.

In a 23-minute interview with the local media yesterday that was equally charismatic and contentious, the Ravens middle linebacker had his first group session with local reporters in eight months, acknowledging regret over criticism aimed at some of his teammates, and lecturing the media.

Lewis, who hadn't addressed local reporters since October, said he apologized to his teammates after he told ESPN in April that the franchise had not complemented him with the personnel to be the dominating player who collected NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2000 and 2003.

"I'm not a perfect man," Lewis said at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. "The only man that was ever on this earth who was perfect was my Creator. That's it. So if I make a mistake, I'm [going] to apologize to my teammate for speaking from my heart. ... My apology was to my teammate because I spoke about something that I probably shouldn't have spoken about."

Lewis also backed coach Brian Billick - a far cry from an interview aired two months ago by Comcast SportsNet during which the linebacker appeared to avoid giving Billick a vote of confidence.

During that telecast, Comcast reporter Kelli Johnson asked Lewis whether Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's decision to retain Billick as the head coach was a move in the right direction for a team that had completed a 6-10 season. Lewis' response: "No comment."

Yesterday, Lewis confirmed Billick's assertion on Tuesday that the player had told Johnson before the interview that he would not answer any football-related questions regarding his contract, the coach or the team.

"I told her that I'm not talking about football," Lewis said. "But during the interview - because I am passionate when I do speak - she started saying, `Well, what about football? How are you guys going to be?' I was like, `Look, we'll find out.' She came to me asking me about Billick. I said, `No comment.' She started asking me about the quarterback situation. I said, `No comment.'

"I never saw it, but what I heard from Day One was they played one comment as if I said something about Billick," the linebacker continued. "The interview was nothing about Brian Billick. Me and Coach Billick have probably one of the most peaceful relationships between a player and coach because we have one goal, and that goal is to help our team always get better. It's sad at times that people would just pull out one piece to say this is what you said, and it was never about Brian Billick."

On Tuesday, Johnson told The Sun that Lewis did not set parameters around the interview.

"He couldn't have been more cordial and had quite a few comments about his situation and the Ravens. Then came the question about Billick and it was an immediate, `no comment,'" Johnson said. "He knew the effect that his `no comment' would have when I asked the question."

Lewis, who disputed several published reports that he had demanded a trade, rebuked the media for writing about him without talking to him first and declined to give any details about his apology.

"What I said was for me and my teammates. If no one can understand that, I won't address it again," he said. "There's no need because there's no relevance in me trying to explain to you all what you all will never understand. You all will never understand what we go through on a football field. Ever. Ever. The thing is, I can work with anybody here because my life is peaceful.

"But at the same time, I'm not going to keep digging up the same issues over and over. It's boring. I walk into a locker room to look my men in the eye and say, `Look, let's go back to war. We didn't make it to the Super Bowl, we didn't make it to the playoffs. Let's go do what we need to do.' That's my obligation."

Nose tackle Kelly Gregg confirmed that Lewis called him and the two discussed Lewis' comments.

"It was no big deal from the get-go," Gregg said. "All he wants to do is win."

Lewis, who is not scheduled to practice during minicamps over the next two weeks, said his surgically repaired right hamstring is improving and hinted that he might be ready to play when training camp opens on Aug. 1.

"Where I am now, six weeks out, yeah, it's a pretty good chance," he said. "But like I said, I can't speak for Bill [Tessendorf, the team's vice president of medical services], either. Bill is probably one of the greatest doctors in this game right now, and if he tells me I don't think you need to try it, I'm not going to try it no matter how good I feel. But we're working extremely hard, and every day, I'm over here. We're just getting a lot of things done and right now, where I am, if I had to say something, I would say yes."

Notes -- Safety Ed Reed was curiously not practicing for the second straight day. He watched all the drills with helmet in hand. Coach Brian Billick said Reed's lack of work is not contract-related. Reed is in the final year of his deal. "I'm comfortable with where we're at right now in terms of his participation," Billick said. ... Receiver Clarence Moore, who recently had surgery for a sports hernia, is not expected to participate in the final two minicamps. Billick said Moore should be ready for the start of training camp. ... The Ravens signed quarterback Sonny Cumbie for an extra arm in minicamps. Cumbie recently played for the Arena League's Los Angeles Avengers. Drew Olson is expected to return to the Ravens next week after he completes his classwork at UCLA.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com edward.lee@baltsun.com

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