Patriots

Lewis on using banned substance: 'Nawwww, never'

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Lewis on using banned substance: 'Nawwww, never'

NEW ORLEANS -- When a team doctor told Ray Lewis in October that his season was over because of a torn triceps, the linebacker bristled.

Told no player had ever returned from the injury in the same season, Lewis responded, "Well, you know nobody's ever been Ray Lewis, either.' "

Lewis stated this matter-of-factly during the Super Bowl XLVII Media Day Tuesday, ascribing his unprecedented comeback to the dint of hard work, faith and perseverance.

Meanwhile, a Sports Illustrated story that surfaced on Tuesday alleges Lewis had a lot more help than that:

Hours after he tore his triceps during an Oct. 14 home game against the Cowboys, Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis and (Mitch) Ross connected on the phone. Again, Ross videotaped the call."It's bottom, near the elbow," Lewis said of the tear. After asking a few pseudo diagnostic questions, Ross concluded, "All right, well this is going to be simple. . . . How many pain chips you got around the house?""I got plenty of them," Lewis replied.Ross prescribed a deluxe program, including holographic stickers on the right elbow; copious quantities of the powder additive; sleeping in front of a beam-ray light programmed with frequencies for tissue regeneration and pain relief; drinking negatively charged water; a 10-per-day regimen of the deer-antler pills that will "rebuild your brain via your small intestines" (and which Lewis said he hadn't been taking, then swallowed four during the conversation); and spritzes of deer-antler velvet extract (the Ultimate Spray) every two hours."Spray on my elbow every two hours?" Lewis asked."No," Ross said, "under your tongue."Toward the end of the talk, Lewis asked Ross to "just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week."The deer antler extract, according to the article, contains a banned substance called IGF-1.

There were a number of questions posed to Lewis about the article on Tuesday. He dismissed them all.

In one response, Lewis said, "It's a two-year-old story that you want me to refresh. I wouldn't give him the credit to either mention his name or his antics in my speeches or my moment. I can't do it. I've been in this business 17 years and nobody has got up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I ever took in the NFL, there's never been a question if I've ever even thought about using anything. So to even entertain stupidity like that, tell him to go try get his story somewhere else."

When I asked Lewis directly if he used deer antler extract to recover from his triceps injury this season, Lewis answered, "Nawwww, never."

With memories of Lance Armstrong coming clean after years denying he used PEDs, Lewis' boasting of making an unprecedented comeback from an injury suffered less than three months before making a return invites cynicism.

He's brazen about it. Given what we've learned about athletes' commitment to denying PED use until they're forced to give up the goods, it's not unusual either.

Lewis is reveling in the glory and attention he's being showered with this week as he heads toward his final NFL game. The use of the phrase "my speeches or my moment" is indicative of how he views his last turn on the big stage as a player.

Lewis seems to believe folks will suspend disbelief. The inertia of his story will carry the day.

You felt it when he recounted his meeting with the Ravens' doctor.

"I said, 'Doc, you sure?' I said, 'Nahhh. Doc, there's no way I'm gonna be out for the year with just a torn tricep,' " Lewis recalled. "I said, 'I've been through way worse.' He was like, 'Ray, nobody's ever came back from this.' I said, 'Well, you know, nobody's ever been Ray Lewis either.' I kinda made up my mind, as soon as I head that news I called Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome the next day and I said, 'Oz, don't put me on (injured reserve).' He said, 'What's on your mind?' I said, 'I'll be back.'

And back he has come. How?

"I take all lows and I took them to a positive very quickly," he explained. "I took what was supposed to be a career ending thing if you listen to certain writers and things and I took it and I used it as my motivation."

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

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No doubter: Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick

No doubter: Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick

The Raiders gave Stephen Gostkowski plenty of time to think about the 62-yard kick he was about to line up when they called a timeout just before the end of the first half. Didn't matter. Gostkowski returned to his spot, watched a good snap turn into a good hold, which turned into a Patriots record.

It was the longest field goal in Patriots history, making it the longest in Stephen Gostkowski's career as he bested his previous record of 58 yards set earlier this season. It was also the perfect exclamation point to a perfect day for Gostkowski, who went four-for-four on field goals and three-for-three on extra points in his team's 33-8 win over the Raiders in Mexico City. 

When asked about the half-ending kick, Gostkowski credited his teammates for putting him in position to kick it. They got from their own seven-yard line with 33 seconds left to the Raiders 45-yard line with five seconds remaining. A 20-yard run by Dion Lewis and completions to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski did the trick. 

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"I think every time I kick a long kick, it's Gronk who makes the catch right beforehand," Gostkowski told reporters. "It's a nice little polish connection. It was cool. You can wait your whole career and not get a kick like that. It's a very opportunistic job. You're only as good as the opportunities you get. I got a good opportunity, and I'm glad I took advantage of it."

The longest kick Gostkowski tried in warmups was from 60 yards away but he had no concerns about trying to make something longer. Having kicked at altitude all week at the Air Force Academy, he knew his range would be better than it usually is. 

"I don't usually go past 60 in warmups," he said. "I hit one and I made it by a good bit. I knew that coming up short -- if I hit it good -- probably wasn't going to happen. Warm weather, altitude, the ball is going to fly. I just tried to concentrate on getting a good foot on it , making sure it stayed straight enough. Got the opportunity, took advantage of it. It's exciting for the whole team."

Gostkowski also used the extra oomph he had in Mexico City to boot six of his seven kickoffs for touchbacks, keeping the NFL's leading return man Cordarrelle Patterson (30.8 yards per return) from burning the Patriots in that phase.

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