As much as I want to avoid it, THE story surrounding the Baltimore Ravens heading into the off-season is the status of Ray Lewis. There were some very interesting comments made today by the star linebacker, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun.
Ray Lewis told the NFL Network yesterday that he wouldn’t give the Ravens a hometown discount in free agency and considered the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets as attractive options.
A 10-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, Lewis would become an unrestricted free agent in three weeks if the Ravens don’t sign him to a new contract or use the franchise tag on him.
At the end of the season, both owner Steve Bisciotti and linebacker Terrell Suggs brought up the possibility that Lewis might take less money to stay with the team.
But Lewis said there would be no discounts.
“I don’t play less,” Lewis told the NFL Network in Hawaii, where he will play in the Pro Bowl. “If you don’t play less, you don’t take less. That’s just life.”
Only a week ago at the Super Bowl, Lewis told The Baltimore Sun that his thoughts heading into free agency were “nobody else’s business” and his decision was “between me and God.”
Lewis, though, was more candid this week, acknowledging that he would be open to joining the Cowboys and Jets if he didn’t re-sign with the Ravens.
When Lewis was asked about the Cowboys’ dysfunctional locker room, Lewis explained that the team needed “one general” and that needs to come from a player and not a coach.
“I don’t see all of that outside stuff that they’re talking about what goes on in Dallas,” Lewis said. “I see Dallas as a great opportunity. It’s always been America’s Team. It’s just a great place to play football.”
Lewis surprisingly said he wouldn’t have a problem playing with Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens.
It was only in 2004 when Owens spurned a trade to the Ravens which caused a feud between him and Lewis. Not only did Owens later mock Lewis’ pre-game dance after scoring a touchdown, he then mentioned the murder charge brought up against the middle linebacker in 2000 to show he wasn’t “the bad guy.”
But it seems like Lewis has either forgiven or forgotten.
“I can definitely play with T.O,” Lewis said. “I think T.O. is a great, great person. I just love him. I love his work ethic. I love everything about him. So, playing with T.O. is easy.”
Another team that would draw Lewis’ interest is the Jets.
Lewis said it’s a match because of his relationship with Rex Ryan, his former defensive coordinator who recently became head coach of the Jets.
“That opportunity by itself looks attractive,” he said. “That just sounds right. It’s like, ‘Wow, if something does happen where you’re not back in Baltimore, the Jets wouldn’t be bad.’”
Lewis said he hasn’t talked to Ryan about the chances because he can’t. Under NFL rules, teams can’t speak to players currently under contract with other teams.
Because Lewis’ deal doesn’t officially expire until the end of the month, conversations with other teams would be tampering.
Lewis, however, said he liked “the upside” with the Jets.
“You go take a young Jets team that has a lot of talent across the board,” Lewis said. “You wiggle 52 into that equation, then that team goes from just being OK to ‘let’s go win this.’ That scenario is attractive.”
But Lewis never said he has ruled out coming back to the Ravens.
He continued to call Baltimore “my city” and seemed disappointed that the Ravens didn’t address his contract situation earlier.
Before this year, the Ravens have never allowed Lewis to enter the final year of a contract. It would mark the first time in Lewis’ 13-year career that he would reach free agency.
“The uncomfortable thing about me is that I’m even having this conversation,” Lewis said. “With everything I’ve given to that city, I’ve always felt that this is one conversation that I would never have and didn’t want to have. That scenario in Baltimore … that’s nothing I don’t love about my city.”
I figured that comments would be forthcoming and here they are. Lewis is positioning himself nicely. He appears to not want to leave, mentions that he doesn’t understand why the organization hasn’t got a deal in place and has himself set up as the good guy if he does happen to move on. Fine strategy.
I’m still hearing that the two sides are further apart on the money end than people think. I still see this situation coming to an end with the team franchising Lewis for the season.