|Ravens' Lewis misses rough and tumble old-school NFL|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 September 2007 13:27|
Baltimore's fearsome linebacker longs for the days when crunching collisions didn't lead to colossal fines. He's bothered by a league where yellow flags fly freely on almost every play, and he's irked by overzealous officials who rule by the book, not with their brains.
You can't do this. You can't do that.
Everything, it seems, is off-limits.
In his 12th season, Lewis has watched a game made famous by its bone-jarring brutality reduced to a rough version of two-hand touch. And, as always, Lewis delivered his point of view with all the subtlety of a punch in the mouth.
``We once praised people for being tough,'' Lewis said. ``We once praised the Jack Lamberts and the Dick Butkuses and all those guys. Now, in today's game, if you hit somebody too hard you'll get fined. If you just jaw with somebody - you could be friends just talking back and forth in great, spirited competition - then you'll get in trouble.
``Everything is about getting in trouble now and not letting the game be the game. That's why the old school is leaving the game.''
Lewis' impassioned rant came earlier in the week during a conference call as the Ravens (2-1) prepared to play the Cleveland Browns (1-2) in an AFC North rivalry that usually includes its fair share of punishing hits.
Lewis was initially asked why there weren't more tough, ``throwback'' guys in the league anymore, and the menacing man in the middle took the opportunity to blast what he sees as pro football's softening.
He feels rule changes have made it far too easy for offenses to score.
``Everyone knows that you can throw the ball 50 yards downfield and it will be 50-50 on getting pass interference or roughing the passer,'' he said. ``That's why the game has totally changed from the perspective of the game itself. That's what makes it very difficult for a person, even with my mind-set, who understood old school football.
``Old school football was very simple. It was by any means necessary and that has changed now because of the economics of things. People want the high-scoring games and they want us to never touch the quarterback. There's so much that has changed to kind of soften our game instead of letting our game be what it truly is.''
His opinions aside, Lewis leads the NFL's top-rated rushing defense. The Ravens are allowing just 61.7 yards per game, and this week they'll be focused on stopping another Lewis whose moves they know very well.
Jamal Lewis, who spent seven seasons in Baltimore, will face his former teammates for the first time since signing with the Browns as a free agent. And while he's looking forward to the matchup, Lewis remembers what it was like to run against the Ravens' defense in practice.
``You don't move,'' he said.
Ray Lewis makes sure of it.
The two Lewises were close during their time together in Baltimore. When Jamal was released in March by the Ravens, Ray understood the business side of the decision. However, that didn't make his friend's departure any easier to take.
And just because they're close off the field, don't expect any hugging to take place until after the game.
``The bottom line is, he's with the Browns now,'' Ray Lewis said. ``When Sunday comes, there is no friendly fire. You strap on your helmet and I strap on mine, and we just got to deal with each other. That's what I'm looking forward to.''
Only once during his animated midweek interview did the 32-year-old Lewis become uncomfortable. It happened when he was asked to assess his place among the all-time greats at his position, along with names like Butkus, Nitschke, Lambert, Singletary and Lanier.
One day, Lewis is almost certain to be among them. That day, though, appears to be countless Sundays off.
Lewis feels re-energized around his younger teammates, and he's relishing his leadership role more than ever. Recently, Lewis had a conversation with New England linebacker Junior Seau, who put things in perspective for him.
``One thing he said that caught my attention the most was, 'What were you built to do?''' Lewis said. ``I said, 'Football.' The next comment was, 'Well, then do it and don't worry about nothing else. Just do it. Once you're done, you're done.'''
Lewis, who said he's fully recovered from a torn triceps muscle, won't allow himself to ponder the end of his career. When it comes, he'll know it and accept it without question.
``I don't know what I've got left, but I'll tell you what, however long I do have, I'm going to give you my best years,'' he said.
``And when it's done, it's done.''