R. Lewis: Race a factor in McNair treatment

Ravens linebacker questions handling by Titans

November 11, 2006|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis insinuated to ESPN that the Tennessee Titans' banning quarterback Steve McNair from their facility this offseason was based on race.

"I don't ever want to turn it into a black-white issue," Lewis told ESPN. "But it would really puzzle me, seriously, if anybody would ever tell Brett Favre ... if anybody would ever tell Peyton Manning not to walk into the Indianapolis facility.

"No. I can never understand that, and I never will because it's heartless," Lewis said. "It's heartless to do a man like that without an explanation."

The Titans eventually traded McNair to the Ravens for a fourth-round draft pick.

McNair, who plays his former team tomorrow, said he tries "not to get into that racial statement. I'm all about giving people the benefit of the doubt."

In a statement, the Titans said their decisions this offseason - which included turning McNair away twice from their facility - had nothing to do with his being black.

"As we said repeatedly through the difficult offseason process with Steve, we definitely could have handled the situation better, but the notion that race had something to do with it has no place in this discussion," the team wrote. "We respect Steve a great deal for what he did and meant to this franchise. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a franchise in the NFL that has done more for African-American quarterbacks than this one, and we hope that Steve will someday join Warren Moon in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

The Titans also drafted Vince Young, an African-American quarterback, with the third pick overall this year, choosing him over highly rated quarterback prospects Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler, who are white.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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