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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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In a league of either ball control or quick scores, the Ravens’ offense can do both

In a league of either ball control or quick scores, the Ravens’ offense can do both

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Matt Skura had no idea the third quarter was over until he checked the clock for himself. 

Against the Patriots two weeks ago, the Ravens took over on offense up just a touchdown with eight minutes and three seconds left in the quarter. They ran out the entire quarter, including six seconds of the fourth quarter, and ended the drive with a touchdown. 

The next drive took nine minutes and 35 seconds off the clock, as the two Ravens drives of the half that didn’t end the game took 17 minutes and 44 seconds off the clock. 

In a league of big plays and passing, the Ravens are bucking the trend with long, sustained drives to take the life out of defenses.

“You can definitely tell in the second half when they start to get worn down, especially those extended drives that are like, seven or eight minutes long,” Skura said. “By the end of it, the pass rush slows down, the run stopping slows down as well. We know it’s giving our defense rest to come out and feel fresh.”

But the Ravens not only can score with long, soul-killing drives, they can score at will, too. 

Against the Bengals last Sunday, the Ravens had the ball for just 23 minutes and 49 seconds. They also scored more points (49) than they ran offensive plays (46). 

“At the end of the day, if they can’t have the ball and score, they can’t win,” Willie Snead said. “It’s all about ball control and how fast we can get in the end zone. Last week, the time of possession was flipped. But we were scoring, the defense was playing great and we were just moving the ball at will.”

Baltimore is currently second in the NFL in possession at 34:24, trailing only San Francisco by eight seconds on average. Before the Cincinnati game, Baltimore was first in the NFL in time of possession. Scoring quickly, and on defense, tends to skew those numbers. 

The most impressive drives, though, are the ones that control the clock and involve double-digit plays.

“It’s just incredible what we’re doing right now, with these 14, 15-play drives,” Hayden Hurst said. “Teams are having a tough time matching up against us. We’re just kind of grinding out drives and marching down the field on teams. It’s really fun right now, what G-Ro has schemed up.”

The opponent also plays a factor in how the Ravens game plan, as giving the ball back to a talented offense could end up biting them later in the game.

“Like a game in New England, we know who’s on the other side of it,” Snead continued. “We’ve got to take that into consideration. 12-play, 18-play drives, that just means less time for him. It’s all into the game plan. When we run the ball and get going it’s hard for anybody to stop.”

While there’s different ways score on offense, the Ravens have shown that they’ve got the speed and talent to score quickly over-the-top of defenses with Lamar Jackson and Hollywood Brown, amongst others. 

And even though those are the prettiest plays, the drives that truly take the life out of the defense are the ones that take significant time of the clock, slowly bleeding the game until the offense doesn’t even know they’ve ran down an entire quarter.

“You’ve got to get the first first down,” Bradley Bozeman said. “Once you get the first first down, you start marching, start pacing. It just depends how they’re playing us, determines what we do. It’s not rocket science.”

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Browns' Myles Garrett suspended indefinitely, will miss rest of the 2019 season at a minimum

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Browns' Myles Garrett suspended indefinitely, will miss rest of the 2019 season at a minimum

Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett has been suspended indefinitely at a minimum of the remainder of the 2019 season, including the Ravens-Browns Week 16 matchup, for his role in a nasty brawl with the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. 

Things got ugly after Garrett tackled Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with eight seconds remaining in the Browns 21-7 victory over Pittsburgh. Rudolph attempted to pull Garrett's helmet off his head, which led the defensive lineman to then remove Rudolph's helmet. Garrett then used Rudolph's helmet to swing at Rudolph, using the helmet as a weapon.

You can watch the whole brawl unfold below.

Garrett's suspension means he will miss Baltimore's clash with Cleveland in Week 16. From a football standpoint, Garrett is arguably the Browns best defensive player and a crucial loss for a team that is still fighting for a playoff berth.

According to the release, Garrett must meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prior to a decision on his reinstatement.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has been suspended three games for his role in the incident as well. Following Garrett's helmet-punch, Pouncey, in defense of his quarterback, started kicking and punching Garrett. 

Browns linebacker Larry Ogunjobi has also been suspended for one game for his role in the incident, too.

Garrett is an enormous loss for the Browns on the football field, and this punishment from the NFL is the league's way of making sure an incident like the one that occurred Thursday night never happens again. 

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