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Ray Lewis more focused on 49ers than retirement

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Ray Lewis more focused on 49ers than retirement

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) For weeks, no one could determine when The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour would draw to a close.

Since Lewis announced on Jan. 2 his ``last ride'' in the NFL would coincide with the end of the Ravens' postseason run, there was the possibility that each game would be his last.

Now, after successful stops in Denver and New England, there is no longer any doubt: Win or lose, Lewis will perform for the final time on Feb. 3, in New Orleans on the NFL's grandest stage.

It wouldn't be surprising if Lewis approached the Super Bowl with a feeling of finality, but the 37-year-old middle linebacker insisted Thursday that he's thinking only about helping the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.

``Honestly, outside of putting my head in the playbook and studying San Fran, I really haven't thought about anything else,'' Lewis said.

``It's going to be a great day, period, no matter what happens. And that's kind of the way I've approached it,'' he said. ``I haven't even said, `Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?' I really haven't. Because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize.''

Now in his 17th season, Lewis is preparing for his second Super Bowl - the first in 12 years. The last time he played for the NFL championship, Lewis earned MVP honors in Baltimore's 34-7 win over the New York Giants.

After waiting all this time to get back, Lewis has no intention of merely settling for being part of the big game.

``The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl,'' he said. ``It's great to get there, don't get me wrong, but to win it is something special.''

And then, only then, Lewis will think about what it means to walk off the football field for the final time.

``You feel that confetti drop, I'll probably reflect then, when I'm there,'' he said. ``But, it really hasn't crossed my mind like that.''

San Francisco inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who wears No. 52, has nothing but admiration for Baltimore's No. 52.

``I'm just a big fan of him, period,'' Willis said Thursday. ``Just his enthusiasm on the field, the passion he plays with. I've always been a big fan of those who play with passion, such as Ray Lewis. I know people always want to make comparisons and talk about torches and all this. At the end of the day, I always say I can only be the best player I can be.

``As a fellow linebacker, being at the Pro Bowl and being able to be coached by the same coach (Mike Nolan) at one point in time in our careers, we've become friends. Ray's one of those guys, he loves to give his wisdom and give his knowledge, and I'm the type that I love to listen - anybody who's been there, done that, especially his caliber of player, who's played a long time.''

Lewis has been with the Ravens since 1996, and it wasn't long after his arrival that he became the captain of the defense. As his career went on, he lost a step but made up for it with tireless film study and sharp instincts.

After his rookie year, the only time Lewis didn't get a Pro Bowl invitation were those seasons when he was beset by injury - 2002, 2005 and 2012.

Last year he received his 13th Pro Bowl nod despite missing four games with a foot injury. This season, after tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14, there was a strong possibility he wouldn't be back.

At first, the Ravens believed he was done for the year. But Lewis vowed to return, and his teammates were determined to make it happen.

``We knew we wanted to make the playoffs in order for Ray to have a chance to come back,'' safety Ed Reed said. ``He's that engine, that motor that's going to go all the time. He understands what the offense is trying to do to you when you're talking about the run game. He's calling out plays before they even happen. That's what you really miss when Ray is out.''

Since his return, Lewis has 44 tackles in three games. He isn't limping into retirement; rather, he's headed out with a flourish.

``He's played really well. He's played just like he's always played,'' coach John Harbaugh said.

Lewis attributes his involuntary 10-game absence as the reason behind his resurgence on the field.

``I've always said that anytime you can give your body a true rest - not just your body - anytime you can give your mind a certain rest from the game and from the every week wear and tear, when you come back you come back just as fresh as ever,'' Lewis said. ``For me right now, I feel fresh. My mind is fresh, my body is fresh and I'm just excited to really be able to end the thing up the right way.''

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Santa Clara, Calif. contributed to this report.

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Reading between the lines on Ravens' 2020 NFL Draft approach

Reading between the lines on Ravens' 2020 NFL Draft approach

Just over two weeks before the NFL draft, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, director of player personnel Joe Hortiz and coach John Harbaugh took part in a video conference with reporters on Monday. 

The trio discussed the Ravens’ offseason plans and roster holes headed into the NFL Draft on April 23. 

The key to navigating “lying season,” though, is to decipher what is and isn’t truthful.

Notably, DeCosta gave a lot of information about the wide receivers on Monday that could give some insight into the Ravens’ draft plans.

“We think there's a lot of really good players,” DeCosta said. “Obviously, the receiver class is prolific by many people's standards, and so there's probably 25 draftable wideouts in this draft.”

While that doesn’t necessarily mean the Ravens will pick a receiver - especially early on - DeCosta said there will be about 185 players on the team’s draft board. That’s certainly a deep pool of wideouts for the Ravens to select throughout the draft. 

If the right opportunity presents itself, the Ravens can jump on a potential trade to make it happen. Or, they can be patient and wait for the wide receivers to come to them. They’ll be guaranteed to have a handful of pass-catchers they like in the middle and later rounds.

“We like our receivers, first and foremost,” DeCosta said. “I think Miles (Boykin) and Marquise (Brown) and Willie (Snead IV) and we brought Chris Moore back, Jaleel (Scott) — we have some guys that we think are going to make another jump. We really like that room. So, do we feel the urgency? We probably feel that with every position.”

Should they feel that urgency to move up and select a first round wide receiver, though, they’ll have the ammunition to do so. They currently have four picks on the second day of the draft, which they could use to go get their desired target.

“This year, we do have a lot of (picks),” DeCosta said. “We have the opportunity to maybe go up and get a guy. Normally, when a guy starts to fall, what you find is other teams are trying to trade for him, too, and they're usually willing to give up more than you're willing to give up.”

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They could also sit back and wait to select one of the top wideouts with one of those four picks in the mid-rounds. 

Should the Ravens stay away from a wide receiver in the first round, there are plenty of directions they could go. One option is offensive line. 

The Ravens’ offensive line is a question mark, as they could be without Matt Skura for the start of the season — which would leave no interior offensive line depth and two starters with a combined seven games of experience at center and right guard. 

That certainly will be a priority for the Ravens in the draft in two weeks.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges, it’s probably job one or two,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to make sure that we do a great job of making sure the interior offensive line is all set. How you do it, you do it the old way. I don’t think we necessarily have to concern ourselves with what the rest of the league is looking for in the offensive line, or any other position really, but just what we’re looking for and the type of player we want.”

If the Ravens are looking for the type of player they want, a bruising offensive lineman who can run block well is likely in the cards. Additionally, they’ll likely look for a player who can be versatile. The team released James Hurst at the outset of free agency, a versatile offensive lineman who could have filled in at tackle or guard. 

Baltimore will certainly try and find his replacement at some point in the draft.

“There are some tackles that we think can play inside, play guard,” DeCosta said. “There are some really good guards, some centers in this draft. I think we’ve shown in the past that we can find guys in the second, third, fourth, fifth rounds, offensive linemen who can come in and play.”

Aside from the offensive line and wide receiver positions, the biggest position of need for the Ravens is linebacker. But while there are a few three-down linebackers available in the first round — namely Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma) and Patrick Queen (LSU) — the Ravens are versatile enough defensively to afford to look for more specialized defenders.

“I think when we look at the board, there's obviously guys who can do all three things — play the run, cover and blitz — but I think when we look at the guys throughout the draft, there are players that can help us in specific roles,” Hortiz said. “There are guys in the mid-rounds that can come in and cover, maybe play the run.”

The Ravens certainly could still add Murray or Queen if either is available, or - if they would like to trade up - make a move to get one of them as well. But the Ravens have options.

“But I think with our versatility and the way [defensive coordinator] ‘Wink’ [Don Martindale] and those guys use guys in their specific roles, it helps us evaluate players that maybe can't do all the things but can do one thing well,” Hortiz continued.

All of this is to say that the Ravens have done a good job through free agency and roster-building already — they haven’t hemmed themselves into a corner. 

But through various non-committal answers, the Ravens gave a brief glimpse into their draft process: the offensive line will be a key priority, they don’t need to select a receiver in the first round unless one falls, they have the ammunition for a trade and, most importantly, they have options. 

“We try to look at each draft and just stay true to the mindset, ‘What can we do to build our best team moving forward?’ Every roster is different," DeCosta explained. "You lose players in free agency, you gain players, guys retire, be that as it may, and you’re just trying to adjust. We’re trying to find the best guys and kind of assess what our strengths and weaknesses might be.”

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NFL analyst thinks Tom Brady would have won 10 Super Bowls in Baltimore

NFL analyst thinks Tom Brady would have won 10 Super Bowls in Baltimore

Tom Brady is, according to just about everyone who evaluates football, the greatest quarterback of all-time.

He's certainly the most successful, having won a record six Super Bowls with the Patriots. Some might argue head coach Bill Belichik played a larger role in New England's dynasty than Brady, but either way, most agree where No. 12 stands in the NFL's all-time pecking order.

According to former Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, however, Brady may have actually been held back by the Patriots of the mid-2000s.

During his appearance on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday, Jeremiah was asked what question he would pose to Brady if guaranteed an honest answer.

"Tom, if you were the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, with their personnel, how many Super Bowls would you have won there?" Jeremiah answered after some consideration. "If he was telling the truth, he’d say 10."

The answer understandably shocked host Dan Patrick, who could only laugh and respond with a single word.

"Really?" he asked.

"I mean, look at the personnel, Dan," Jeremiah said while doubling down. "Compare the personnel of those two teams, outside the quarterback position, for the 2000s decade. I think he would have won 10 Super Bowls."

Again, Patrick had just one word to follow up: "Wow."

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"People might forget about this," Jeremiah continued. "But you’ve got arguably the greatest middle linebacker of all time [Ray Lewis], arguably the greatest free safety of all time [Ed Reed], you’ve got Terrell Suggs who’s probably a Hall of Famer, you’ve got Haloti Ngata who’s a perennial Pro Bowler, you’ve got Chris McAllister, you’ve got a top three left tackle in NFL history in Jonathan Ogden. You’ve got a Hall of Fame tight end [Shannon Sharpe], plus his backup Todd Heap was a perennial Pro Bowler, a 2,000-yard rusher [Jamal Lewis], you don’t think Tom Brady would have won?"

"I think he would have won 10 Super Bowls. I don’t think that’s crazy, he won six with the guys they had in New England!" he said.

Patrick once again told Jeremiah that his mind was blow, and warned him that he might go viral with a take like this.

He was also quick to point out that Jeremiah was working from experience, having been in the Ravens front office during the decade.

"Yeah, we saw we couldn’t beat them," he admitted. "And we’d look at the rosters on paper and go ‘we feel pretty good about everyone but this guy,’ and we couldn’t stop them."

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