Cubs

Lewis barely recognizable at Ravens camp

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Lewis barely recognizable at Ravens camp

From Comcast SportsNet

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- In preparation for his 17th NFL season, Ray Lewis decided the best way to cope with his advancing age was to reduce his waistline.

The 38-year-old linebacker began training camp with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday much lighter than his listed playing weight of 240 pounds. Lewis wouldn't reveal his exact weight, but said he's never weighed less since coming to Baltimore in 1996.

A 13-time Pro Bowl star, Lewis has built a reputation through his punishing hits on quarterbacks and running backs. Although that's always going to be his calling card, Lewis figures he can be a better LB by losing some lbs.

"The game is changing. The game isn't any more (about) 250, 260-pound fullbacks," he said. "You don't have the offenses running the ball 25, 30, 40-plus times. Passing is just happening more."

Lewis has maintained a high level of play throughout his career by adapting to his surroundings and keeping his body in excellent shape. He may be pushing 40, but he has no intention of coming off the field on a third-and-9.

"People want to find mismatches here, there. So, you just change with the game," Lewis said. "If everybody runs, who can't run? So for me, that's kind of what my thought process was coming into these next years. The lighter you get, the lighter you play, and you just feel better. You feel better because you have the wisdom to go off and do whatever you want to do. I just think playing a little lighter is a lot smarter for me."

Lewis has already played 222 NFL games, made 2,586 tackles and notched 40 sacks. There's no telling how high those numbers will get before he begins to think about retirement.

"I would be a very selfish person if I thought about that day, because until passion leaves you for the game, then that's impossible to think about," he reasoned. "To ever think about walking away from what I've been born to do in one phase of my life. I love the game too much, and I have a great connection to Baltimore, and as long as I am playing and my body feels great, then I'll keep doing it."

Lewis doesn't just play for the fun of it. He's all about winning. He already has one Super Bowl ring, and he spent the past 11 years striving to get another. His bid last season fell tantalizingly short when the Ravens lost to New England 23-20 in the AFC title game.

The narrow defeat was a crushing blow to Lewis, but he used the occasion to put on a display of leadership that resonates within the core of the team to this day.

"You're a pro, you always think about what you could have done better, how you felt, and quite frankly, that was not the best feeling," running back Ray Rice said. "But we had a great leader pull us back together, and that was No. 52. Without him in that locker room at that moment, I don't think the gelling would have come back. Ray Lewis brought us together as a team, and you'll see a team come out here with pride, ready to come out here and practice."

The Ravens have plenty of coaches but only one leader on the field: Lewis, their starting linebacker since the team arrived from Cleveland. He is the voice of experience, perhaps the one man on the roster capable of putting the proper perspective on an agonizing loss.

"There is a lot of pain in this world, real pain. People look toward us during games to be courageous in the times of loss in big defeats like that," he said. "It's OK to still be a man. It's OK to walk up and congratulate somebody else because they won. Those are the things that I think make you appreciate every moment."

Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the team's top draft pick in 2012, was a 6-year-old when Lewis made his Baltimore debut. The Lewis that Upshaw saw Thursday was a far different version than the rookie who played for Ted Marchibroda so long ago.

"It's just being blessed, that I've been able to maintain through my injuries and through the ups and downs of this game," Lewis said. "I think it's a credit to my work ethic and just everything that I've bought into over the years. And every year I'm always trying to change, always trying to come back better for my team."

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Palatine's Eduardo Orozco

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Maine West girls basketball

Highlights

No. 1 Simeon holds off No. 4 Whitney Young

No. 2 Orr gets revenge on No. 3 Curie

No. 9 New Trier takes down No. 6 Evanston

No. 8 Fenwick handles No. 10 Loyola Academy

No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor rallies past No. 18 Bolingbrook

Oswego East upsets No. 20 Joliet Central

Andrew shuts down Thornridge

Sandburg tops Lockport in OT

Richards runs by Shepard

Maine West captures second straight girls basketball regional title