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Column: Last ride a rocky one for Ray Lewis

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Column: Last ride a rocky one for Ray Lewis

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A lot of this Super Bowl was going to be about Ray Lewis anyway, even before strange tales of deer-antler spray and magic hologram chips came to light. He made sure of it by starting his retirement tour early, and bringing along the dances and inspirational speeches that TV cameras eat up.

If his oratorical skills are great, so, too, is the player. His teammates love him as much for what he does in the locker room as on the field, and fans in Baltimore may one day even erect a statue to his greatness.

Seventeen years fronting one of the most dominating defenses in the NFL should be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame. A Super Bowl win on Sunday would give him a second ring to cherish the rest of his life.

Like the player, though, the act has grown old. When Lewis talks - and he talks incessantly - it's hard to take anything he says seriously.

That was the case Wednesday when he had the stage to himself and everyone in a packed interview room wanted to know: Just what is deer-antler spray and why would you want to take it?

Turns out he wouldn't. And, says Lewis, anyone who suggests otherwise must be doing so with evil intent.

``That's the trick of the devil,'' he said. ``The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That's what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you're trying to do.''

Enough. Please. The real trick for Ray Lewis is obfuscation and if he does it well, it's because he's had plenty of practice.

The day before, a reporter had the temerity to ask him about a night 13 years ago in Atlanta that left two men dead after a Super Bowl party and put Lewis in jail on charges of double murder. Old news, maybe, but the circumstances surrounding the deaths have never been fully explained, especially by Lewis.

Instead of invoking the devil, Lewis went the other way.

``Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions,'' he said. ``I just truly feel that this is God's time, and whatever his time is, let it be his will. Don't try to please everybody with your words, try to make everybody's story sound right.''

What?

Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and got probation, along with a $250,000 fine from the NFL for violating its conduct policy. The murders remain unsolved after the case against his co-defendants fell apart.

He's been nothing but a model citizen since and as the years go by and memories fade he's become in inspirational figure to those who enjoy his proselytizing and his play on the football field. His teammates respect him as their leader, and his coach seems to regard him as larger than life.

``We have already used him as our team chaplain, so Ray could double up anytime he wants,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``He can coach. He can do whatever he wants. I think Ray's got big plans. Ray's that kind of guy and when he's done playing he's always a guy trying to affect people and change the way that people think and make an impact on the world.''

He's certainly making an impact on this Super Bowl, though his last ride has turned out to be bumpier than he might have imagined. Lewis surely understood the murders would be mentioned, but after years of deflecting questions about his connection to them, he was probably also sure it would be no more than a minor annoyance.

It's not so easy with deer-antler spray and pills. Sports Illustrated said Lewis hoped to repair a torn right triceps by seeking help from an Alabama company that says its products contain a banned substance connected to human growth hormone. Lewis denied taking anything illegal, but danced around any connection to the company that also sold its product to golfer Vijay Singh and others.

``To entertain foolishness like that from cowards who come from the outside and try to destroy what we've built, like I just said, it's sad to even entertain it on this type of stage, because this type of stage is what dreams are made of,'' Lewis said. ``This is what kids dream their whole lives, to be up here on these days, stepping in the NFL and saying that I am on the biggest stage ever.''

If it all sounds a bit wacky, it's because it is. What, after all, could be goofier than deer-antler spray and magic chips except maybe the men who believe in them.

But after the Lance Armstrong confession it's hard to believe anything athletes say anymore, or that the NFL is somehow free of PEDs simply because there hasn't been a big scandal in recent years. We don't know what anyone takes, how many tests they've passed or failed, or what they do behind closed doors to build the kind of muscles you need to play in the NFL.

Life as a football player will end for Lewis on Sunday in the Super Bowl, and if he has mixed emotions about it, so must we.

It's hard to root against one of the greatest linebackers ever, a man who has played with the intensity of 10 men for 17 years now, and a man who is a towering figure in the locker room,

After today, it's even harder to root for him.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Ravens' defense earns third shutout of season, force 5 turnovers against Packers

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens' defense earns third shutout of season, force 5 turnovers against Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Baltimore Ravens forced five turnovers in their third shutout of the season, blanking the Green Bay Packers 23-0 Sunday.

Baltimore last accomplished the feat when the Ray Lewis-led defense had four shutouts for the Super Bowl-winning team in 2000; the last NFL team to have three was New England in 2003. Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle and Marlon Humphrey each picked off passes for Baltimore (5-5), which led the NFL in interceptions entering the weekend.

"It doesn't mean (anything) if we don't make the playoffs," veteran edge rusher Terrell Suggs said about the shutouts. "If we don't get in, you won't remember them."

RELATED: THREE THINGS WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE RAVENS THIS SEASON

A problematic offense couldn't generate a touchdown drive until Joe Flacco's perfect deep ball to Mike Wallace over two defenders for a 13-point lead nearly two minutes into the third quarter. Flacco threw for 183 yards, going 22 of 28 with an interception.

His lone touchdown pass was still enough of a cushion against a Packers team struggling without two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, out with a broken collarbone.

The Packers were last shut out on Nov. 19, 2006, when then-starter Brett Favre left with an elbow injury in the first half of a 35-0 loss to New England. Rodgers, then in his second year in the league, finished off that loss in relief.

Hundley, Rodgers' replacement this season, didn't fare any better.

He was 21 of 36 for 239 yards. But he threw interceptions on the Packers' first two series. On the third drive, backup running back Devante Mays fumbled on his first carry of the season.

"Our guys were playing so fast and covering so well, it just made it tough on" Hundley, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Any big gains the rest of the day were negated by busted plays or penalties. The Packers (5-5) have lost four of their past five games.

"You have to take care of the football," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Offensively, that was way too much for us to overcome."

RELATED: NO SUSPENSION FOR DOLPHINS' KIKO ALONSO

Davante Adams was a lone bright spot, torching the Ravens' strong secondary for 126 yards on eight catches. The Packers actually outgained the Ravens 265-219. But turnovers sapped any momentum.

"We're not in panic mode, everything is still in front of us," Adams said. "We've got to get a grip of it real quick here. Otherwise we will be in panic mode."

Justin Tucker kicked three field goals for Baltimore. Alex Collins added a 3-yard touchdown run with 2:12 left. That score came a play after Hundley threw his third interception, returned 15 yards by Humphrey.

Collins had 49 yards on 20 carries, while Wallace finished with 56 yards on four catches.

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Ravens vs. Packers: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Packers: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Ravens are back after their bye week and are headed to Green Bay, Wisconsin to take on the 5-4 Packers.

Prior to the bye week, the Ravens lost a close one to the Tennessee Titans, allowing Marucs Mariota to throw a late touchdown in the fourth to wide receiver Eric Decker. 

The first half of their season has been rough. Joe Flacco hasn't performed up to his Super Bowl MVP status and is looking to change that in their last seven games. 

RELATED: THREE THINGS WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE RAVENS SO FAR THIS SEASON 

Running back Danny Woodhead-who has been out since Week 1 with a hamstring injury- returned to practice and could be playing Sunday. 

The Ravens' receiving core hasn't shown up either. John Harbaugh's team is as healthy right now as they've been all season, something that will be very important in Lambeau Field. Can the Ravens get back on track and steal the sixth and final AFC playoff spot? Their first step could be against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers.

The Packers have been without Rodgers since Week 6 and are now being lead by Brett Hundley.

Hundley currently has a 69.1% QB rating and 2 touchdowns, but is listed on their Week 11 injury report with a hamstring injury.

Packers starting running back Ty Montgomery, is listed a questionable and did not participate in Wednesday's practice with a rib injury.

RELATED: FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEK 11 RANKINGS 

They are ranked 22nd in the league in passing yards and 19th in rushing yards. Something the Ravens defense should be able to handle.

The Ravens and Packers have met five times, with the Packers leading the series 4-1. The last time they met was in October of 2013 when the Packers beat the Ravens on the road, 19-17.

Ahead of Sunday's game, here's everything you need to know to watch.

Week 11 Ravens vs. Packers Game Info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers

What: Week 11 NFL regular season 

When: 1:00 p.m.. ET, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: fuboTV

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -2

Over/Under: 38

Weather: 30 degrees, mostly sunny

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): 20-0  at Cincinnati Bengals (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): 24-10 vs. Cleveland Browns (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): 44-7 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (in London) (L)

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. (W)

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m. (W)

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17: (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m