First of all, let's get this out of the way. Ray Lewis didn't kill anyone.
The Lewis-is-a-murderer mantra is the biggest thing you see the anti-Ray Lewis people say. It's repeated on every message board whenever the Ravens win and Lewis plays a prominent role. It's even repeated by the wives of New England Patriots players.
I covered the Lewis murder case. The NFL office, and most court observers and journalists around the case at the time, believed that the prosecution overreached in charging Lewis. This was later proven as the prosecution's case crumbled and Lewis was offered a misdemeanor obstruction plea deal.
An overreaching prosecution was a fact mentioned by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue in his then-record fine of Lewis.
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This is all stated for an important reason. The narrative of Lewis as a murderer has become real in the eyes of some fans and adds to what has become Lewis' legendary status in the Baltimore locker room.
I get why some people hate Ray Lewis, but what he's done in turning around his life is miraculous. It's beyond Kobe Bryant post-rape accusations or Mike Tyson or maybe anything else that's happened in sports history.
You can hate him all you'd like -- and sometimes he's a bit much -- but to the Ravens, Lewis is football's version of a messiah. The players believe his protestations and preaching and that's all that matters.
"The more people attack Ray and bring up his past," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "the more we believe in him. He's the greatest leader I've ever seen."
A doctorate thesis or several books could be written on all of the religious-socio-political-racial issues involved in what Lewis is doing now. There has never been anyone in NFL history like Lewis who garners a flock of followers using both action and words. Normally, this kind of influence and belief system comes to a player only after he's died.
When Lewis speaks of destiny and God's plan, the players believe this as well. They are fully in. If you doubt this fact, you don't know this locker room.
The thing I hear most from Baltimore players about why they love Lewis (I use that word purposely) is that, as one player explained, "He's been through the s--- and back." The players know all about Lewis' past (particularly the murder accusation) and to them, what happened to Lewis could have happened to any of them.
That last point cannot be emphasized enough.
So hate Lewis all you'd like. Ignore how he's come back from the brink. Call him a murderer.
That just adds kindling to an already intense flame. The Ravens believe in Lewis and belief is a powerful force.
2. Former Raider Tim Brown basically said in a radio interview that then head coach Bill Callahan sabotaged the Raiders in their loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXVII by scrapping the game plan at the last minute. The word "sabotage" is a brutal word and Brown's use of it is horribly irresponsible and borderline actionable. To think an NFL head coach would do that is unfathomable. And it doesn't matter if another player backs Brown because this sounds a lot like a case of some players blaming Callahan for getting their asses kicked. They're making Callahan a scapegoat.
Said Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL radio, countering Brown: "In terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this: He was a good football coach, he was a good man. We all wanted to win."
3. Speaking of scapegoat ... the idea that Jets owner Woody Johnson was this helpless lamb, and had Tim Tebow forced on him by the cutthroat football guys, is laughable. Absolutely laughable. Johnson knew exactly what he was getting into with Tebow. In fact, he wanted Tebow more than anyone else in that organization.
4. Team source says former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu, aka the Honey Badger, known as much for his troubles off the field as his plays on it, has met with a handful of teams at the Senior Bowl. One person who has spoken with Mathieu called him "sincerely apologetic." He was kicked off the team for failing a number of drug tests.
5. The NFL will review Tom Brady's slide in the AFC championship game, I'm told, but I don't expect any sort of punishment. Any play of that nature is routinely reviewed. The slide, in which Brady seemed to kick his leg up towards safety Ed Reed, looks suspicious, however. This isn't to say Brady is Ndamukong Suh, but the kick looks a lot less like an accident and more like Brady trying to kick Reed in the leg. (Editor's note: The NFL has fined Brady $10,000)
6a. Champ of the week: The Ravens. Their win at the Patriots is about belief. They were true believers and that still means something.
6b. Chump of the week: The Falcons. A team that lacks confidence and innards. They will fix this issue because Mike Smith is an excellent coach, but it is an issue.
6c. Tweet of the week: From the Ravens' Smith, and presented without comment: "Played a lot of games since my brother's death and I never received as many rude tweets after a win than Sunday ... yet NE fans cry about class."
7. It's true that this is now a passing league and all of the rules are focused on making it easier on offenses. All true. But Atlanta's loss is proof that a running game is still needed as more than a prop. A running game is needed, perhaps most of all, to close out games. The Falcons didn't have that. One other thing: look at the two teams in the Super Bowl: strong running games.
8. Still continually hearing that the Manti Te'o made-up girlfriend won't injure draft stock severely, if at all. We'll see.
9. Patriots player on the Ravens, a few days after the AFC title game loss: "Looking back, they punched us in the mouth. We didn't punch back."
10. People around the league are closely watching the coaching happenings in Dallas particularly when it comes to head coach Jason Garrett. If owner Jerry Jones takes away Garrett's play-calling duties, which seems like it's going to happen, other coaches would view it as a great insult to Garrett. Hey, Garrett's a big boy, and making lots of cash, so this isn't to say people should feel sorry for Garrett if that happens. But in some corners of the coaching community they are viewing Garrett twisting in the wind and shaking their heads. They believe Garrett is being treated rather shabbily.