NEW ORLEANS — He talked about the “Saturday Night Live” parody of his tears and antics. He talked about his hospitalized grandmother and how proud he’ll be when he takes his son to enroll at the University of Miami next week. He talked about God, “the journey,” and the Ravens winning the Super Bowl Sunday night.
He dodged a report that he used a banned substance to recover from a torn triceps, and reluctantly looked back at the dark days of 2000 when he was charged with murder and ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice after two men were killed in the hours after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta.
As you read this, Ray Lewis no doubt is still talking . . . somewhere. The man can talk.
He is the menacing, costumed (how much eye-black can one man apply?) face of the Ravens, the face of football, the face of Super Bowl XLVII. He was playing in the NFL when some of his teammates were 6 years old. On the floor of the Superdome Tuesday afternoon, Lewis fielded questions for one hour.
Lewis has become something of a punch line in the wake of his most recent histrionics. His introduction dance has been copied and mocked. His tearful “no weapons” cries after victory have made him a comedy target. Kenan Thompson joined the chorus of imitators in a bit with Seth Meyers on “SNL” last weekend.
“I love comedy,’’ said Lewis. “You would never hear me play about God, but I looked at it, man, and I was in tears. He’s actually imitated me before. I thought it was hilarious. Sometimes people don’t know the meaning about why you get emotional. But I enjoyed it like most fans enjoyed it.’’
Lewis said he promised his grandmother one more Super Bowl “before she goes home.’’ He talked a lot about his legacy.
This is a man who has been in the league for 17 years. He was supposed to be done for the season when he tore his triceps in Week 6 but he told the Ravens not to put him on season-ending injured reserve, which would have eliminated him from postseason play.
The Ravens lost four of their final five regular season games, but they were buoyed by Lewis’s announcement that he was returning for the playoffs. With Lewis back on defense, Baltimore thrashed Indianapolis at home, then went on the road to win amazing games at Denver and New England (remember that one?). The Super Bowl will be Lewis’s final game.
“To have my career come to an end in the biggest game,’’ Lewis said. “How else to top off a legacy?’’
Lewis has been a postseason force. He has made 44 tackles, more than anybody else in the playoffs. He will be anchoring the middle of the field when young 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tries to move down the field Sunday night.
“I’m a big fan of Ray Lewis,’’ said Kaepernick. “Anyone who plays football likes the intensity he plays with.’’
Lewis won a Super Bowl in his fifth season in the league.
“I was a follower then,’’ Lewis said. “I’m a leader now.’’
Baltimore’s leader did not appreciate a breaking Sports Illustrated story that quoted Mitch Ross, a supplier of deer antler spray (banned by the NFL), claiming that Lewis used the product.
“I wouldn’t give that report or him any of that press,’’ said Lewis. “He is not worthy of that. Next question . . . Two years ago, that was the same report. I wouldn’t give that report or him any of my breath . . . . That was a two-year-old story that you want me to refresh . . . I’ve been in this business 17 years and nobody has ever gotten up with me, training with me . . . To even entertain stupidity like that, tell him to get a story off someone else.’’
It was not the only uncomfortable Media Day moment for Lewis. He was reminded that the families of the Atlanta murder victims have stated they have difficulty seeing Lewis back on the big stage.
Lewis took a moment, then said, “If you take a 13-year break on anything . . . As hard as it is for them, as hard as it is about the things you want me to speak about, or what you want to report about, I just don’t believe honestly that this is the appropriate time for that.
“The sympathy that I have for that family, or what me and my family have endured because of all of that, it ain’t — nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions.
“I just truly feel that this is God’s time. Let it be his will, and don’t try to please everybody with your words to try to make everybody’s story sound right. At this time, I would rather direct my questions in other places.
“I live with that every day. You make and take a break from it. I don’t. I live with it every day of my life and I would rather not speak about that today.’’
And so we all moved on. And talked about the big game. And Ray’s legacy. And no weapons. And confetti falling from the roof of the Superdome Sunday night.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.