NEW ORLEANS -- One thing, as Super Bowl week kicks off in full Tuesday with Media Day at the Superdome, I think that I should have dropped into Monday Morning Quarterback:
I think America is getting tired of Ray Lewis.
It's not his fault, entirely. He is who he is, the biggest football emoter (is that a word?) of our lifetime and maybe of all time. It's not his fault that there will be something like 4,000 accredited media here to chronicle what he says and does during the week, and the cameras isolated on him to document his every impassioned quote. He's one of the top -- pick one -- 20 or 30 players of all time, and every game could be his last, and the amount of media over-saturation on the sport of pro football is so out of control that of course the retirement of a legendary player is going to engender coverage out the wazoo. Every media outlet for the last month, since Lewis said this is going to be his last season, has been scrambling to report and cover the life and times and football story of Ray Lewis, because that's what we do when great players are going to retire. We beat the living crap out of the story until you're so sick of it you beg us to stop.
I am not saying it's right, I am not saying it's just, I am just saying we all have a job to do.
Then, of course, there's the matter of the double homicide in Atlanta 13 years ago, for which Ray Lewis was charged. In exchange for his testimony against two other men with Lewis that night, the charges against Lewis were dismissed. He was convicted of obstruction of justice instead, and the NFL suspended him for four games and fined him $250,000. No one was ever convicted of the murders, and the families of two men are bitter to this day about it.
Whenever I write about Lewis, a string of angry tweets and/or e-mails follow, asking how can I always gloss over the fact that Lewis was a murderer. I don't gloss over it, because you're innocent 'til proven guilty in this country, and Lewis was never convicted of murder, and so in my eyes he's not a murderer. Did something bad happen that night that we'll never know the full story about? Certainly. Was Lewis disingenuous with authorities about the case? Apparently, because of the obstruction-of-justice conviction. But it's pretty serious business to call a man a murderer, and no one has ever produced credible evidence that he is one. If you want to believe in his guilt for the killings, go ahead. I don't.
But the one other facet of Lewis that has become very well-worn in the last month or so is his public display of emotion. In the Baltimore Sun Tuesday, columnist Mike Preston puts it this way: "This crying, praying, quoting Scripture and dropping to his knees during the past two games has gone too far. I believe Lewis is serious about his show of emotion. I will never question his commitment to Christianity or his love for God. But I've watched Lewis for 17 years, and while he is the ultimate team guy, he is also the ultimate 'I' guy. He loves his fellow players, but Ray Lewis loves him some Ray Lewis, which is why he talks about himself in the third person. He likes the theater and loves to be a showman, but when is enough, enough? Even within the past week, more Baltimore fans are being turned off by his behavior as the network cameras zoom in. Microphones and recorders collect his every word even though we're not sure what he is talking about at times.''
So it's a complex man who will play his last game Sunday in Super Bowl 47. And you're not finished hearing about his complexities this week. If you don't like it, you're free to mute the coverage this week. There's going to be a lot of it.
THE STRANGE LAB THAT LURED RAY LEWIS | LEWIS DENIES INVOLVEMENT
Now for your e-mail:
I MISSED THE BOAT ON TIM BROWN. "I think what the media is missing in Tim Brown's comments is his FEELING of sabotage and his OPINION that Bill Callahan gave the game to Jon Gruden. I listened to the interview and I didn't feel any direct finger pointing, just his opinion on how he and other players felt. No one should apologize for an opinion; maybe the media should apologize for blowing it completely out of proportion.''?-- Hilliary, Portland, Ore.
The strong inference -- and you're right; Brown never said, "Callahan purposely threw the game'' -- that Callahan sabotaged the game because he hated the Raiders and loved Gruden deserves an apology. I'll never change my mind on that, but I respect your opinion.
REVIS FOR ALEX SMITH? COME NOW. "Hi, Peter. Love your columns. About Darrelle Revis, you may have stumbled upon a mutually beneficial answer: trade Revis for Alex Smith. The Jets need a proven QB who doesn't turn the ball over and the 49ers">49ers need to upgrade their cornerback situation as teams figure out how to stymie their pass rush. What do you think?''-- Scott, Castro Valley, Calif.
Not much, but thanks for writing, Scott, and thanks for your kind words. I think Revis is worth far, far more than Alex Smith at this stage of their careers. As part of a large trade -- say, two high drafts plus Smith for Revis -- it's understandable. But the Jets would be foolish to deal the best player at his position for a guy they're not sure would be their long-term quarterback of the future. And I really like Alex Smith and believe he'll be a good quarterback somewhere for the next few years.
ON ALS. "Thanks so much for pointing out that ALS public service announcement. Since I was diagnosed with ALS in June of 2010, I pay close attention to ALS-related things. That PSA is dead accurate about how it starts. For me, it was falling over backwards without warning. From there, it was a little bit at a time. Now, I'm confined to a wheelchair, and my speech is becoming slurred. Fortunately, since veterans have a higher incidence of ALS than the general population (I'm retired from the Army) the VA considers me 100 percent disabled, which gives me a lot of support, but I'd rather not have ALS. Your frequently raising the awareness of the disease is much appreciated."-- Bob Hicks, Ellijay, Ga.
Good luck in your struggle, Bob. I spent some time with Steve Gleason Monday night here in New Orleans and will be bringing you some words about his life next Monday.
ALEX SMITH DESERVES HIS FATE. "Doesn't Alex Smith deserve what he got this year? He went back to the Niners even though he knew they were flirting with Peyton Manning behind his back. He was a free agent, and he definitely could have left the Niners at that point. Maybe there were no financial offers better than the Niners', but even if that's the case, you can't always have it both ways. The Niners showed their true colors when they worked out Manning, and Smith still chose to go back; so you can't really say it's a surprise what happened this year."-- Rob, San Diego
Everything you say is true, and there's no crying in football. But he had only one lukewarm offer in his free-agent life (with Miami). I think what seems so unfair is that he was the leading passer in the NFL when benched, and his last full game was an 18-of-19 masterpiece against Arizona. To say his benching was not incredibly painful in the scheme of a football career would be denying both his past in San Francisco and the way he was playing when he got yanked.
YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING TO ROOKIE CONTRACTS NOW. "Regarding the Russell Wilson contract situation, is there a prohibition against signing him to a contract now that starts when his current deal ends? If not, why not sign him to a deal where the bonus money gets him some long-term security? Then both sides get what they want -- Wilson gets a pay raise, and the Seahawks get control of their QB salary for an extra year or two. It sounds like a win-win -- but is it within the rules of the CBA?"-- Scott O'Neil, Waltham, Mass.
No, Scott. The Seahawks cannot do anything to Wilson's contract either under or over the table until after his third NFL season. CBA rules.