From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Of all the topics Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis wanted to talk about at Super Bowl media day, deer-antler spray probably was not on the list.He declined to directly address in any detail Tuesday questions about a Sports Illustrated report that he sought help from a company that makes the unorthodox product to speed up his recovery from a torn right triceps. Lewis was the NFL's leading tackler in the playoffs after missing 10 regular-season games with the injury.The company, Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS), says its deer-antler substance contains a banned performance-enhancer connected to human growth hormone.The 37-year-old Lewis, who has announced he will retire after playing against the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's Super Bowl, dismissed the report as "stupidity."Sport Illustrated reported that SWATS owner Mitch Ross recorded a call with Lewis hours after the player hurt his arm in an October game against Dallas. According to the report, Lewis asked Ross to send him deer-antler spray and pills, along with other products made by the company.The magazine also said that when it spoke to Lewis for its story, he acknowledged asking Ross for "some more of the regular stuff" on the night of the injury and that he has been associated with the company "for a couple years through Hue Jackson."Jackson is a former Ravens quarterbacks coach -- and later head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Two years ago he stopped endorsing SWATS because his ties to the company violated NFL rules."That was a 2-year-old story that you want me to refresh ... so I won't even speak about it," Lewis said Tuesday. "Because I've been in this business 17 years, and nobody has ever got up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I've ever took in the NFL -- there's never been a question of if I ever even thought about using anything. So to even entertain stupidity like that. ..."The NFL didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, and NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah declined comment."The team knew about this report. Ray denies taking anything and has always passed tests," Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said.Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said he found out about the SI story during the team's bus ride to the Superdome for media day."I have not talked to Ray about that personally," Harbaugh said. "What I do know about that is Ray has worked incredibly and extremely hard to get back, so I hate to see anything diminish the work ethic that he's put in to get to where he is right now. And my understanding is Ray has passed every random, you know, substance test that he's taken throughout the course of his whole career. So there's never been a test that's shown up anything along those lines."All in all, the topic only added to what already was a week filled with plot lines connected to Lewis.There is the largely rehabilitated image of a man who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub in 2000. There is the impending retirement, a self-titled "last ride" for a player widely considered one of the top defenders in NFL history and the Super Bowl MVP in 2001.And there is his recovery from what was originally thought to be a season-ending injury."When I tore my tricep, the doctor looked at me after I went in the office and she told me that I was out for the year. And I said, Doc, are you sure?' I said, Nah.' I said, Doc, there's no way I'm going to be out for the year with just a torn tricep,' " Lewis said with a laugh Tuesday. "I said, I've been through way worse.' She was like, Ray, nobody's never come back from this.' I said, Well, nobody's ever been Ray Lewis, either.' "
0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.
11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.
15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.
19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.
BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.
- Meet the Celtics roster for opening night
- Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics
- Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'
- Tatum may find himself in Celtics' starting lineup on Opening Night
- New-look Celtics know they have still have to 'bring their game'
But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road.
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
And even that might not be enough.
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”