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Lewis says he's 'agitated,' not angry, about story

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Lewis says he's 'agitated,' not angry, about story

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Ray Lewis is ``agitated.''

Not because the Baltimore Ravens linebacker thinks the magazine report linking him to a company that purports to make performance-enhancers will affect his play or that of his teammates against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl - the final game of a 17-year NFL career that most assume will earn him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rather, Lewis did not want to spend time discussing the subject in private with his head coach or in public with the media, as he did Wednesday, when his forceful denials - and attacks on the owner of the supplement company - meant the matter intruded for a second consecutive day on his retirement send-off.

``It's so funny of a story, because I never, ever took what he says or whatever I was supposed to do. And it's just sad, once again, that someone can have this much attention on a stage this big, where the dreams are really real,'' Lewis said, wearing his white No. 52 Ravens jersey, gray sweat pants and a black hat with the team's purple logo. ``I don't need it. My teammates don't need it. The 49ers don't need it. Nobody needs it.''

He smiled widely when the first question at his media session was about the topic - surely, he figured it was coming - then chuckled later while addressing it. Known for his frequent references to God and faith, Lewis called the whole episode a ``joke'' and a ``trick of the devil,'' adding that he told teammates: ``Don't let people from the outside ever come and try to disturb what's inside.''

Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday that Lewis sought help from a company called Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS), which says its deer-antler spray and pills contain a naturally occurring banned product connected to human growth hormone. The 37-year-old Lewis, the MVP of the 2001 Super Bowl, is the leading tackler in the NFL postseason after returning from a torn right triceps that sidelined him for 10 games.

SI reported that company 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 items made by the company.

On Wednesday, Lewis called Ross a coward and said he ``has no credibility.''

Ross declined an interview request from The Associated Press but emailed a statement reading: ``It is the view of SWATS and Mitch Ross that the timing of information was unfortunate and misleading and was in no way intended to harm any athlete. We have always been about aiding athletes to heal faster and participate at an optimum level of play in a lawful and healthy manner. We never encourage the use of harmful supplements and/or dangerous drugs.''

Told by a reporter that he seemed angry, Lewis replied: ``Me? Never angry. I'm too blessed to be stressed. Nah. You're not angry. You can use a different word. You can use the word `agitated,' because I'm here to win the Super Bowl. I'm not here to entertain somebody that does not affect that one way or another.''

Christopher Key, a co-owner of SWATS, said in a telephone interview that the company removed NFL players' endorsements from its website because ``all the players were given letters by the NFL two years ago saying they had to cease and desist and could not continue to do business with us anymore.''

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that but did not respond to other requests for comment about SWATS or Lewis' involvement.

Teammates uniformly pushed the same message as Lewis and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh - ``Everybody heard about it, but we're not worried about it,'' is the way rookie running back Bernard Pierce put it - and several said NFL players often are offered products to aid in muscle-building or recovery.

``You've got to be real careful. You've got to think there's a reason they're giving you this product,'' Pierce said. ``If someone has success, another person wants to be mentioned in that - like, `Oh, I'm the reason for that.' If anybody tries to give me anything or tries to sell me on their stuff, I say, `Go right to my agent.'''

Wary of using something that has no real benefit - or, worse, that would result in a positive drug test administered by the league - players seek approval first from the NFL, the union, or a team trainer or doctor.

``I've been approached,'' Baltimore nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu said. ``They'll come to me and they tell me, `This will help you with recovery and all that.' I say, `OK. I appreciate it.' And then I will call the NFL.''

Another athlete mentioned in the SI story, three-time golf major champion Vijay Singh, released a statement Wednesday at the Phoenix Open, acknowledging he used deer-antler spray and saying he wasn't aware that it may contain a substance banned by the PGA Tour.

Sports Illustrated reported 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.''

Lewis' stance was different Wednesday.

``He told me there's nothing to it. ... He's told us in the past, he's told us now, that he's never taken any of that stuff, ever,'' Harbaugh said. ``And I believe Ray. I trust Ray completely. We have a relationship. I know this man. And I know what he's all about. It's just too bad it has to be something that gets so much play.''

While Lewis did face a handful of questions about SWATS, plus some on-field topics, he never had to deal Wednesday with a single reference to a dark chapter in his life: He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub in 2000.

``We all in here have a past. You know? But how many people actually dwell into it? You know? Nah, it ain't about your past. It's about your future,'' Lewis said in response to a question about keeping focused on Sunday's game.

``And for me and my teammates, I promise you, we have a strong group of men that we don't bend too much, and we keep pushing forward. So it's not a distraction at all for us,'' he said, raising a clenched fist.

``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. There's no man ever trained as hard as our team has trained. There's no man that's went through what we went through,'' Lewis said. ``So to give somebody credit that doesn't deserve credit, that would be a slap in the face for everything we went through.''

Asked about deer-antler spray, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis' take was, ``I don't think Ray would take any substance.''

Carlos Rogers, a San Francisco cornerback, chuckled when asked about it and what effect the headlines could have on the Ravens.

``I don't think they'll get a distraction. I don't know what to make of that. I heard it was something that can't be detected. They can't test (for) it, anyway,'' Rogers said. ``Him saying that he's never failed a test, he probably hasn't failed a test for what they test for.''

Boasting that ``you will never fail a drug test from taking our product,'' SWATS co-owner Key said the company has sold its products to more than 20 college football players each at Southeastern Conference schools Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, LSU and Georgia.

Alabama has sent two cease-and-desist letters to SWATS, university spokeswoman Debbie Lane said, adding: ``UA has been aware of this situation for some time, and we have monitored this company for several years.'' Auburn and LSU representatives also said they have asked the company to stay away from students.

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AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., contributed to this report.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

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USA Today Sports

Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

The Ravens' season had it's ups and down, but out of it came some bright spots.

The defense continued to prove dominate and the offense found its groove during the second half of the season, but who stood out the most?

Offensive MVP: RB Alex Collins

Collins was a late preseason pickup after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks and Ravens fans are grateful they let him go. After new acquisition Danny Woodhead injured his hamstring on the first drive in Week 1 and Terrance West injured his calf Week 5 in Oakland, Allen emerged as a saving grace. He finished the season with 973 yards, six touchdowns and 212 attempts averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry. His longest rushing attempt was 50-yards against the Steelers in Week 4, and then in Week 14, rushed 120-yards on their defense. 

RELATED: RAVENS' 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP

Defensive MVP: OLB Terrell Suggs

This one was a toss up between Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but considering the level at which Sizzle is playing at in his 15th season, his 2017 performance is MVP worthy.

The 35-year old finished the season with 49 combined tackles, 12 assist, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Suggs ranks 11th in the league in sacks and was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl, something that should be expected from the leader of a defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in points allowed. During the Ravens' Week 12 matchup, Suggs proved he doesn't age when he strip sacked Texans QB Tom Savage with 4:44 remaining in the fourth, shifting the momentum back to the Ravens who were clinging on to a 23-16 win. He's suffered two Achilles tears and a torn bicep over the last 5.5 seasons but has remained Hall of Fame worthy. As of right now, T-Sizzle has no plans of retiring. 

RELATED: FIVE OFFSEASON QUESTIONS RAVENS MUST ANSWER

Rookie of the Year: CB Marlon Humphrey

The Ravens' 2017 first-round pick stepped up to the plate when starting CB Jimmy Smith's season was over after suffering a torn Achilles in Week 13. The rookie out of Alabama finished the season with 34 combined tackles, four assists and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded Humphrey the fifth-best cover corner in the league. QBs only had a 53.5 rating when they threw in his direction. PFF also gave Humphrey a 82.7 rookie rating. 

Humphrey will continue to prove his worth during the 2018 season if Jimmy Smith is still recovering come Week 1.

RELATED: IMPORTANT 2018 OFFSEASON DATES

Special Teams MVP: P Sam Koch

Koch is in his 12th season with the Ravens and he's continuing to prove how efficient that leg of his is. He had a season long of 67-yards and placed 40 of 84 punts inside the 20-yard line. Koch's accuracy earned him AFC special teams player of the week not once, but twice this season. The first came in Week 12 against the Houston Texans when he not only placed five punts inside the 20-yard line, but also faked a punt and threw a 22-yard pass to Chris Moore for a first down. The second honor came in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns after placing four punts inside the 20-yard line, three of them inside the five. While neither Koch or kicker Justin Tucker were named to the Pro Bowl, Ravens fans never break a sweat when the game is in their hands, or should we say, legs.

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Important 2018 offseason dates for Baltimore Ravens

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USA Today Sports

Important 2018 offseason dates for Baltimore Ravens

Mark your calendars now because the Ravens are already gearing up for their 2018 season.

From the Pro-Bowl all the way to the start of the regular season, here are the key dates.

January 28th: Pro Bowl, Orlando, Fla. 

Safety Eric Weddle, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will all be in attendance. In addition, Suggs and Weddle were named starters. The game will take place at Camping World Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN.

February 3rd: Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 Class announced

This will be a very important day for Ray Lewis and the Ravens organization as Lewis waits to here if he will be sealed into football history, one day prior to Super Bowl LII. 

February 5th: Waiver system takes effect

The waiver system allows players' contracts or a club's NFL rights to a player available to other clubs in the league. Upon doing this, the other 31 teams can place a claim to obtain him or waive their chance. During this 24- hour period, once a club waives a player it can not take the player back or change his status. Assignments are based upon draft order until the third week of the regular season. If a player does not get claimed, he becomes a free agent. 

February 20th:  First day to franchise or transition tag a player

February 27th- March 5th: NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis, IN

This seven day period will be crucial for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to get a good look at potential Ravens.

March 6th: Deadline to franchise or transition tag a player

March 12-14th: Teams are allowed to contact and negotiate with agents of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents

March 14th: Start of new league year at 4:00 p.m. ET

At this time, all 2017 player contracts expire meaning teams can begin seeking and signing free agents. Ravens free agents include Mike Wallace, Benjamin Watson, Ryan Jensen, Terrance West, James Hurst, Michael Campanaro, Steven Johnson, Ryan Mallet, Brandon Boykin, Crockett Gillmore, Brent Urban and Luke Bowanko.

March 25-28th: Owners Meeting, Orlando, FL

April 16th: Voluntary OTA's can begin

April 20th: Deadline for restricted FA's to sign offer sheets

April 26th-28th: 2018 NFL Draft, Arlington, TX

The Ravens will be heading down to Arlington, Texas in hopes of picking up their next franchise player. Positions needed include wide receiver, tight end, quarterback and outside linebacker.

May 4-7th or 11-14th: Potential three-day rookie minicamp

May 31-June 2nd: Ravens Beach Bash, Ocean City, MD

July 16th: Deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player 

Mid-Late July: Training camp begins

August 2nd: Hall of Fame Game, Canton, OH

August 4th: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Canton, OH

Again, keep this date marked as it could be the day Ray Lewis is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

September 6th: Start of regular season