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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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Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

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USA TODAY Sports

Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

Justin Tucker making an extra point for the Baltimore Ravens is a sure thing.

As sure as the sun will rise each morning, Tucker's dependability and success have been a constant for the team. But on an afternoon where winds of around 17 mph were a factor though 60 minutes, Tucker's success came to a shocking halt. 

After Joe Flacco and the offense made their way downfield, Flacco found wide receiver John Brown in the end zone to make the score 24-23 with 24 seconds left in regulation.

In walked the most accurate kicker in NFL history to do what he's done so many times before; keep the Ravens in the game. As the ball sailed off Tucker's foot, it took a right and became the first point-after-touchdown the kicker has ever missed.

"I felt like when the ball came off my foot, that I hit it just how I wanted to," Tucker said at the podium following the Ravens' Week 7 loss to the Saints. "Don't get me wrong, today was a challenging day to kick the ball in our stadium, to the right of our bench."

Two hundred and twenty two-straight PATs. 222 consecutive makes, including 112 consecutive since PATs were moved back to the 15-yard line in 2015. Tucker was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, marking the fifth time he's been awarded the honor.

From the field to the press box and all the way to the nosebleeds, M&T Bank Stadium was in shock. 

"A lot of things go through your mind, but I've been there plenty of time," Flacco said. "If you play football long enough, you're going to be there at some point. We're a very tight team here, and the first thing you think about is your brother and him dealing with it. Justin's the best in the world at what he does, and he's the most confident person that I know. It's not going to be an issue." 

"We're a tight group – we are light years better than we've been in the past," safety Eric Weddle said in the locker room after the loss. "Shoot, 'Tuck' is going to win us some games. We're not worried about that missed kick. Shoot, I think it's the first extra point ever that he's missed. Let's not get on him too hard. He's going to be hard on himself. That wasn't the only reason we lost." 

The support for Tucker, in what was a one-off for their teammate, was apparent throughout the entire locker room. When Tucker took to the podium to address the media, long snapper Morgan Cox and punter Sam Koch stood in the interview room while their kicker tried to explain what went wrong in a show of support.

"This one just happened to get away from me," Tucker added. "I'll have to look at it. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but at the end of the day, I feel like I cost us the game. Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and no one plays wins or loses a game, but that's a tough thing to grapple with when you're the guy in the situation at the end of the game."

Even members of the Saints were in disbelief. Almost everyone was mentally preparing for overtime as Tucker's accuracy is known around the league.

"When [Tucker] missed it, I thought, 'Let's get up and get out of here,'" running back Mark Ingram said. "I mean, that guy is good, so I was shocked."

"I automatically was thinking about overtime and what we were going to do," quarterback Drew Brees added. "I was very, very surprised when he missed it."

What the Ravens and fans alike can take solace in is that Tucker's stats speak for themselves showing more positive plays than negative. While it was probably the most heartbreaking loss they've had since Week 17 of the 2017 season, Tucker's point of emphasis when speaking with the media postgame was about more than a missed extra point.

"But, more than anything, I just wanted to be here [at the podium]," he said. "If I was going to ever teach my son or any young person about accountability, I felt like it was really important that I stand up here and answer whatever questions you guys may have."

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What you need to know from the Ravens' 24-23 loss to the Saints

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What you need to know from the Ravens' 24-23 loss to the Saints

The Baltimore Ravens' top-ranked scoring defense clashed with the New Orleans Saints' top-ranked scoring offense in a game fans will soon never forget.

After a constant back and forth and a chance to tie the game, Justin Tucker missed his first ever point-after-touchdown attempt with seconds to spare.

Here's what you need to know from the Ravens' 24-23 loss over the Saints.

— We knew this game was going to be interesting and the Saints didn't waste any time getting things rolling. Facing a fourth down, New Orleans faked a punt for a five-yard gain from third-string quarterback Taysom Hill. The 20 play, 69-yard drive was highlighted by four fourth-down attempts, two challenges from the Ravens and a fumble recovery by nose tackle Michael Pierce on the final fourth down attempt at the six-yard line.

Not only was the 9:58 drive the longest opening drive by a team this season, it was the longest opening drive to result in zero points since the Browns' 9:59 opening drive Week 1 of 2015, per NFL research.

— Drew Brees continues making history during the 2018 season. The QB threw his 500th career touchdown to former Raven Ben Watson in the second quarter joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the prestigious club. Then when the clock hit zero and the Saints came away with the win, Brees also joined Manning and Favre as the third QB to beat all 32 NFL teams.

Prior to Sunday, Brees was 0-4 against the Ravens. He also became the NFL's all-time leading passer back in Week 5.

— It only took seven weeks, but rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson scored his first NFL touchdown with four seconds left in the first half. While it was only from one-yard out, it was nice to see Jackson kick it into gear with the clock ticking. He wasn't the only guy from the Ravens' 2018 draft class to make an impact. Tight end Mark Andrews scored an eight-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put the team up 17-7 and left guard Bradley Bozeman and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. held down the O-line for much of the afternoon. 

— The Ravens' streak of not allowing a second-half touchdown in the 2018 season came to an end Sunday. Drew Brees gave the ball to running back Alvin Kamara at the top of the fourth quarter resulting in a two-yard touchdown. Kamara finished the day with 17 attempts for 64 yards and one touchdown. 

— Jimmy Smith's first start of 2018 didn't go quite as well as he'd like.

Smith was hit with two pass interference calls, with one of them coming in the end zone leading to a Saints touchdown and the other on one of many third downs. The cornerback had trouble covering wide receiver Michael Thomas, who heading into Week 7 was ranked fourth in the NFL,  all afternoon. One of their meetings resulted in a touchdown to put the Saints up 21-17.

— Then there was, of course, Justin Tuckers' first-ever PAT miss. After Joe Flacco hit John Brown in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown with 0:24 left on the clock, the Ravens were preparing to go into overtime until that wasn't necessary. Tucker, who is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, was on the wrong side of history when his kick went wide right.

From the field to the nosebleeds, M&T Bank Stadium was in shock as the clock expired and the final score was 24-23.

Postgame, Tucker took responsibility for the team's loss while his head coach and teammates all reiterated that a game never comes down to just one play.