With retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis sticking to his word so far and not preparing to play another season of football, ESPN is moving forward with its plan to put the outspoken Lewis on the air as a football analyst next season.
ESPN president John Skipper confirmed to SI.com's Richard Deitsch that the network has hired Lewis and he'll have a “significant role" on Monday Night Countdown, Sunday NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. A formal announcement hasn't been made because the contract hasn't been finished. Aside from that, it sounds like we'll be seeing plenty of Lewis on TV and out of uniform next year.
Though many of Lewis' positive attributes got plenty of media attention on Baltimore's run to the Super Bowl -- for instance, we heard plenty about his leadership, faith and his foregone conclusion to be inducted into the Hall of Fame -- we also were reminded about his role in the murder of two men in 2000 and the allegations of PED use.
"We had an opportunity last fall to get Ray, and we debated internally some of the history," Skipper told Deitsch. "Obviously, we decided we were comfortable with it. We must have because we did it. I will tell you we did remind ourselves of some of the issues. We sort of decided that the NFL welcomed him back into the fold and the fans welcomed him back into the fold. I think we are fine with second chances, and we think he will make great television. Ultimately, we were comfortable with it."
One of Lewis' requirements was the flexibility to see his son play football for the University of Miami. That's apparently not a problem with the network. Or, at the very least, it wasn't an impediment to getting a deal done. Perhaps CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus explained why when he spoke to Deitsch recently.
"Ray Lewis has an intensity about him and a way of communicating that is very infectious," McManus said. "He is a bigger-than-life personality, very articulate and [has] an incredible passion for the game. If Ray Lewis decided to take that same passion and put it into a broadcasting career, I think he would be a terrific studio analyst or I imagine game analyst, too.”
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