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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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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Lamar Jackson has his best practice yet

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Lamar Jackson has his best practice yet

Kick off your Friday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

1. The Ravens are hopeful Earl Thomas will be a leader for their new defense which Thomas called "very complex." "This defense is very complex compared to what we were doing in Seattle,” Thomas said to Ravens media. “We were just playing Cover-3 all the time. Now, we’re making calls on the fly. That’s the biggest adjustment for me.”

Additionally, Thomas told media members after practice that he's made "fast friends" with quarterback Lamar Jackson. "He's a very funny guy, I don't know if you all know that," Thomas said.

2. Speaking of Lamar Jackson, he reportedly had his best day of practice so far this offseason according to Ravens media. Jackson's throws looked much better and he was quick in the pocket.


Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens and Rotoworld for news points.

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RG3 likens KD's desire to play hurt to his own injury in 2012

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RG3 likens KD's desire to play hurt to his own injury in 2012

Like most athletes, Robert Griffin III was empathetic towards Kevin Durant when he first went down, taking to Twitter on Monday night to voice his concern. 

Today, the Ravens' veteran quarterback told ESPN's The Undefeated that he's all too familiar with Durant's decision to play and subsequent injury. RG3 likened it to his own brief playoff stint in 2013. Just four weeks removed from an injury to a knee that required reconstructive surgery in college, RG3 started – only to get hit late in the fourth and watch both his season and career come to a screeching halt. 

But that's not how RG3 views it. 

"I was looking at it like I'm out for here for my brothers. I'm out here for my team. And that was the only place I wasnted to be." 

And Griffin doesn't believe he's alone in that thought process, suggesting it was KD's mindset ahead of Game 5 as well.

"Most of us are built to fight. So whenever we get a situation where we’re a little injured or a little banged-up, our first reaction isn’t to get out of there and rest. Our first reaction is to figure out how we can keep going. That’s what makes a guy like Kevin Durant great." 

It remains to be seen whether KD's recovery will be smoother than RG3's. The former Heisman Trophy winner never came close to matching his breakout rookie season, eventually losing his starting job in Washington in 2014.

Durant will miss all of next season, meaning the former Montrose Christian star's next NBA appearance would be as a 32 year-old.