More sacking and less yakking

October 27, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

An open letter to Ray Lewis, middle linebacker, Baltimore Ravens:

Dear Ray,

This is a word of advice from a loyal Baltimore Ravens fan: Shut up and play.

You've been doing quite a bit of talking lately, Ray. Everybody knows your opinion about Ravens head coach Brian Billick's play-calling ability. And, frankly, I'm with you on that one.

Billick came here being hailed as an offensive genius. During his tenure as head coach, we've seen very little offense, and we sure as heck haven't seen any genius. Especially this season. It's as if the Ravens offense were Dracula and the end zone had crosses around it.

But I digress. On to the main reason I'm writing this letter - the exchange of harsh words between you and your former teammate Adalius Thomas, now a linebacker with the New England Patriots.

I read Thomas' comments in Sports Illustrated that have you so upset. Frankly, I didn't think they were all that critical of his former teammates, but I'll let readers judge.

"You've got to remember," Thomas told SI reporter Tim Layden, "I'm coming in from Baltimore. People there wanted the limelight, people sought out the limelight, starting with the head coach. It was a star-studded system. Here it's about as different as you can get. Everybody here shies away from being the star guy. Nobody on this team beats his chest. They just all go about their business. And win."

You responded by calling Thomas a "coward," Ray. But the key word in his critique of his former team wasn't "limelight" or "star-studded" or the phrase "beats his chest." It was that phrase "and wins."

I'd think, Ray, with you and your teammates coming off getting smacked down by the hapless Buffalo Bills, that all of you would want to be silent, reflective and show a little becoming humility. Because Thomas is right: the Patriots are 7-0. You guys are 4-3.

And you're darned lucky to be 4-3.

All of the Ravens' victories have come against teams with losing records. The combined won-loss record for the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams comes to 6-21. And you guys barely beat the Jets, Cardinals and 49ers.

The Cleveland Browns are 3-3 and ran you out of their stadium. The 2-4 Cincinnati Bengals smacked you around for a 27-20 victory. The Bills were 1-4 before handing you a 19-14 drubbing.

How did Thomas and his new teammates fare against the three teams that beat you? They whomped the Bengals, 34-13, in Cincinnati. They throttled the Browns, 34-17, and devastated the Bills, 38-7. That's those Patriots players "going about their own business, and winning," as Thomas said.

That's the difference between your team and Thomas', Ray. The Ravens think they're a Super Bowl-caliber team.

The Patriots KNOW they are.

The Patriots know that no team has ever talked its way into a Super Bowl. You guys didn't do it during the 2000 season. You PLAYED your way in. You did it with the star-studded system Thomas talked about, with guys beating their chests and wanting the limelight.

I don't believe Thomas meant that pejoratively. He only meant that those things worked for the Ravens. At least most of the time. The team has been in the running for a playoff spot for all but a few seasons since 2000.

But the Patriots have been Super Bowl champions three times. Clearly, their system works better than whatever it is the Ravens are doing. You can't argue with success.

And you can't argue with good offense, which the Patriots have and the Ravens don't. That means that as you guys prepare for your last nine games, the defense is going to have to win the games. You guys on defense can't afford to let opponents get ahead because the Ravens don't have a come-from-behind offense.

Lordy, what am I saying? The Ravens don't have an offense at all, much less a come-from-behind offense. What the team seems to have is an offense that has an adversarial relationship with the end zone.

When I look at your remaining schedule, I see you guys play the Pittsburgh Steelers twice, the Baltimore-Colts-Playing-In-Indianapolis, the San Diego Chargers, the Seattle Seahawks, those Bengals and Browns who've already beaten you - and, well, what's this I see here?

Those Patriots come to town Dec. 3.

If you and your teammates play those teams the way you've played your first seven games, you're staring at the possibility of a 5-11 season. That's why the time for talking is past.

Shut up and play, Ray.

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