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Column: Ray Lewis' makeup was running.

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Column: Ray Lewis' makeup was running.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Ray Lewis' makeup was running.

It was eye black, actually, that dark, oily greasepaint football players smear under their eyes to cut down on glare, but which Lewis has begun using to fashion a fearsome facemask for himself. And somewhere amid all those hugs on the field and a few tears in the locker room, it had already turned into a mess.

Lewis was sitting on a table in the Ravens' training room following a 28-13 win over the Patriots that punched his ticket back to the Super Bowl. He pulled off his gloves first, then the nylon skull cap he wears under his helmet, staring straight ahead, enjoying a quiet moment by himself.

Then Terrell Suggs, his sidekick and fellow linebacker, burst into room bellowing, ``The Ravens are going to the Super Bowl!'' It was as though somebody threw a switch.

``Say it again,'' Lewis looked up and said, just above a whisper.

Suggs complied.

``Again!'' Lewis hissed, a little louder this time, and began clapping his hands over his head in accompaniment.

Then he rubbed his eyes - as if checking to make sure he wasn't just imagining the scene. And just like that, the eyeblack that began the night covering his cheekbones now adorned his chin like a beard.

``We're built a certain way and we've got each other's backs, through it all,'' Lewis said. He savored the moment, remembering how the Ravens left New England a year ago, eliminated in this same AFC championship game after former kicker Billy Cundiff's 32-yard field goal attempt hooked wide left.

``Last year when we walked up out of here, I told them, I said, `We'll be back. Don't hold your heads down because we've got something to finish.' ``

That won't be for two more weeks, at the Super Bowl against the 49ers in New Orleans, but win or lose, Lewis will be finished. A tough guy playing a position where toughness is a given, he defied the odds by lasting 17 seasons and all of them with the same club that drafted him.

Lewis doesn't dominate games the way he used to, crushing running backs and making every tackle sound like it does on a video game. Yet the numbers don't lie, and just as he has throughout Baltimore's improbable run, Lewis led the Ravens in solo tackles and assists, 14 combined on this night. At 37, he's also been on the field for more snaps than any other defender.

Yet Lewis' leadership is more than his stats, more than his awkward dance out of the tunnel, more than the hoarse pregame speeches he gives in the last huddle before leading his teammates onto the field.

``There's so many things you can say about Ray, but the thing you don't see just watching the games is how much work he puts in,'' backup linebacker Paul Kruger said. ``And not just his own business. He wants the kickers to be pros in how they go about their business in practice, the linemen, the skill guys - it doesn't matter to Ray.

``A lot of guys outside this locker room have been talking about how we're all playing for Ray, and that's true,'' he continued. ``But playing for Ray means playing for yourself, too, and playing for the team, because that's what he cares about most.

``So yeah,'' Kruger said. ``You could say we're playing for Ray. But what that means to us is that nobody wants to be the guy who lets him down.''

That wasn't a problem Sunday night, at least not once the Ravens took the Patriots' measure. After nosing in front 13-7 by halftime, Baltimore's defense stiffened and held New England scoreless the rest of the way.

``Second half, baby, was 21-0!'' Suggs screamed in the next locker over from Lewis. ``My wife told me, baby, quit watching tape and come to bed, you're going to win by 10. And she was only off by five points!''

Lewis looked over at his teammate and covered his mouth to stop from laughing out loud.

Though it wouldn't hurt, Lewis doesn't need another Super Bowl, let alone another Pro Bowl, to secure his legacy. At least not the football portion of it.

Lewis won the NFL's biggest prize once already, in 2000, and was named MVP in that game to boot. He's been picked for the Pro Bowl 13 times.

But a trip back to the big game will carry echoes of his last trip there, a year after Lewis was charged in a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub a year earlier. Under an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and testified against his two former co-defendants. Neither was convicted, and Lewis eventually reached undisclosed cash settlements with the victims' families.

Lewis worked hard to rebuild his reputation, eventually working his way back into the graces of the NFL. Humbled, he volunteered to speak at rookie orientation sessions and slowly won back the kind of respect that had nothing to do with his play on the field.

``Ray's a guy that's turned everything over,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``He's surrendered everything and he's become the man that he is to this day. He's a different man than he was when he was 22 or 15 or whatever. I think everybody sees that right now. I think it's a great thing for kids to see. It's a great thing for fathers to see. It's a great thing for athletes to see.

``It's,'' Harbaugh said, ``a very special deal.''

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have found their backup to Lamar Jackson. The team announced Thursday they are planning on re-signing Robert Griffin III to a two-year contract pending a physical. 

Griffin III made his return to the NFL in 2018 when Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens surprisingly signed the QB to a one-year, $1 million deal.

Behind Joe Flacco and Jackson, the Ravens chose to keep three QBs on their 53-man roster in case something were to happen to Flacco and Jackson hadn't fully developed to their liking. One of those fears did come true and Griffin III provided the Ravens with a valuable insurance policy.

The 29-year-old appeared in three games for the Ravens, completing 2-of-6 passes for 21 yards. 

With Flacco now the starting QB for the Broncos and the Ravens viewing Jackson as their long-term signal caller, re-signing Griffin III as their No. 2 makes a ton of sense for both the QB and the Ravens. 

"I feel like I have a good grasp of what this team is trying to do," Griffin III said back in January. "I would love to help Lamar [Jackson] continue to develop and also be available and ready to play."

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

The NFL Combine has come and gone and free agency frenzy has taken place.

The Ravens saw defensive veterans exit in free agency while welcoming Mark Ingram, Earl Thomas and Justin Bethel to Baltimore.

How has the combine and free agency affected the Ravens' draft board?

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig: OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Standing at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Risner's draft profile notes that he "has the necessary tools to get guys blocked on the NFL level."

Risner could serve as a good rookie backup on the Ravens' O-line. 

Bleacher Report: LB Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

The Ravens are in desperate need on defense after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency.

Ferguson, who holds the NCAA all-time record for career sacks with 45, has been compared to Khalil Mack. 

"The question, as it was with Mack, is whether Ferguson's skills will translate to the pros," Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox says. "This means there is some risk involved, but the allure of adding a potential premier pass-rusher this late in Round 1 could be too tough to pass up."

Mel Kiper: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama 

The addition of Mark Ingram may change Kiper's mind on the Ravens taking a back in the first-round. 

Jacobs' draft profile overview states, "Jacobs runs with good bend, vision and burst, and he proved to be an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield or from the slot. He will probe and burst, but he could become more elusive with better tempo as a runner. Jacobs is a decisive runner with outstanding one-cut talent to become a bellcow lead back." 

Maybe the Ravens see Jacobs as their long-term running back? 

SB Nation: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

The Ravens cut Michael Crabtree after just one year with the team and John Brown signed with the Bills in free agency. Now they're left with several holes to fill at receiver, a position the Ravens have lacked depth at for several seasons.

After posting a 4.33 40-yard dash, Metcalf's combine profile has him projected as an instant starter.

NFL.com's Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State

Here's a new addition to the roundup. 

Davis describes Campbell as, "extremely fast and elusive. A perfect match for the run-first Ravens, who now have a true deep threat to throw it to over the heads of safeties creeping to the LOS to help slow down RB Mark Ingram and QB Lamar Jackson."

Jeremiah agrees saying, "Campbell had an outstanding workout at the combine, displaying mature route-running skills."

CBS Sports.com: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

      Another wide receiver in the mix, pundits questioned whether or not he was athletic enough to be a first-round pick prior to the combine. 

      Harry posted a 4.53 40-yard dash, 27 reps on the bench press, a 38.5 inch vertical and 122 inches on the broad jump.  Analyst describe the receiver as a "back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits."

      Sporting News: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

      We've got a trend going here.

      Brown, who stands at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, has an "elite vertical speed and great quickness coming in and out of routes," according to Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. Brown missed the Sooners' Pro Day and the combine after undergoing Lisfranc surgery. However, he is expected to be ready to go come offseason programs.

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