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Ray Lewis: 1 last ride for a man with many sides

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Ray Lewis: 1 last ride for a man with many sides

NEW ORLEANS (AP) In the final week of his career, we got to see the many sides of Ray Lewis.

There was Reverend Ray - reciting Bible verses and recalling singing in the church choir as a child, talking passionately about his relationship with God, the voice rising like a revival-tent preacher as he warned everyone that ``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 was Revered Ray - one of the fiercest linebackers in NFL history, universally praised by teammates and opponents alike for his emotion on the field, his leadership in the locker room, for being an example of how the game should be played.

``I will probably be most proud of the impact I've had on so many men's lives,'' Lewis said. ``The game will fade one day, numbers will fall, accolades will wash away, but there is nothing better than changing someone's life.

Some even wondered if there was a Roided-Up Ray - taking some sort of strange wildlife byproduct containing a banned substance. (Lewis quickly shot down Antlergate as a ``joke,'' and it must be noted, he's never tested positive for anything illegal.)

And, of course, there's Ragin' Ray.

That one comes out for the last time Sunday, when Lewis' last ride ends on the biggest stage of all.

The Super Bowl.

The Baltimore Ravens linebacker gets a shot to go out a champion in the title game against the San Francisco 49ers. A few greats players have managed to do it this way- John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan come to mind - but it rarely happens in football or any sport.

``I'm jealous,'' Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk said. ``Ask any player, `How do you want to end your career?' You want to tell your team, `This is it.' You want to play in a Super Bowl and have a chance to win it. Very few guys get to leave the game with a storybook ending.''

It didn't go quite as planned.

The report that the 37-year-old Lewis had purchased deer-antler spray from a quirky company in Alabama to help recover from a triceps injury - it supposedly contains a naturally occurring substance on the banned list - revived doubts about the character of the man. Some of these doubts had lingered since he was accused of covering up a double slaying in Atlanta the night after the 2000 Super Bowl.

In a way, Super Bowl week revealed there are so many Rays, it's impossible to wrap him up in a tidy package.

Even Lewis will admit that the guy he professes to be most of the time - deeply religious, a caring mentor, a humble leader - is not the one you see when he puts on his helmet and pads. The one who dances out of the tunnel before home games, swaying this way and that, as if pleading to the whole world: ``Look at me!'' The one who plays with fury and arrogance, fully intent on breaking lesser men and lording it over them.

``I turn into a different person on the field,'' Lewis said. ``I am a totally different person off the field. But on the field, I'm driven to do whatever it takes for my teammates. There are so many of my teammates here today who I've honored and told them that I would do anything in my power so we can feel that confetti drop together, because that is the ultimate. For me being a leader of this team, I owe that to them.''

No one can questions Lewis' contributions to the game as a player - a two-time defensive player of the year, a seven-time All-Pro, a 13-time Pro Bowler, a linebacker who defined the very essence of his position with his barely controlled fury.

Yet he spent a great deal of time in the days leading up his final game talking about the role of faith in his life. He described himself as non-denominational - again, someone who can't be defined in cut-and-dried terms - but made it clear he relies heavily on a power beyond this world.

``God has always been a part of my life,'' he said. ``Faith is accepting things unseen. It's hard to believe in sometimes, to listen to what man says. We can be tricky with words. We all can. We hear, `You're too small. You can't do this. You can't do that.' You don't have too many more people to believe in than your faith. So my relationship with God is the ultimate. I don't claim a religion. I claim there is a higher power. There is a higher power I go to. And I'm emotional when I go to him. It's the ultimate conversation. There are no bad conversations with him.''

Talk like that can make some people skeptical. Those who lost loved ones in Atlanta 13 years ago likely would question his sincerity. Just hours after the end of a Super Bowl where Lewis was merely a spectator, he and several companions were involved in an altercation with another group outside a nightclub. Two men were stabbed to death. Lewis was accused, at the very least, of covering up the role of others and ditching a white suit he was wearing (it has never been found). He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against two others. They were acquitted, while Lewis received probation and a $250,000 fine from the NFL.

The following year, when the Ravens won their first Super Bowl and Lewis was designated MVP, Disney broke from its tradition and asked quarterback Trent Dilfer to proclaim, ``I'm going to Disney World.''

But, in fairness to Lewis, he has largely stayed free from controversy since that gruesome night - deer-antler spray notwithstanding - managing to transform his image from renegade to elder statesman. After he announced his retirement, shortly before the Ravens began their surprising run through the playoffs, he even got a big hug from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

``He taught me how to be a pro,'' Baltimore running back Ray Rice said. ``It's a simple saying, but there's a lot that comes with being a pro. He's also taught me how to be a man as well. At the end of the day, when he announced his retirement, he put it into perspective by saying, `There's life outside of football.' The life outside of football is being a man, and that was really special for me because it just meant the world to know that this man took his time, not only to embrace me, but he took me under his wing and showed me how to do this thing.''

No matter which Ray walks off the field for the final time Sunday, Lewis is content with his legacy.

``I get to leave on my terms,'' he said. ``That's the ultimate.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/super-bowl-watch andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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