ESPN broadcaster Ray Lewis, in his first public statements on former teammate Ray Rice, said on Monday that his emotions were torn after news broke that the Ravens had released Rice and the NFL had suspended him indefinitely.
“I am disappointed; this is personal for me,” Lewis said on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown before the Lions-Giants game. “So I’m torn. This is a guy, a young man I really took under my wing and tried to mentor and tried to make sure he had a successful career and stayed away from things like this. Seeing this video--- let me very clear, going through this myself personally -- a man should never, ever put his hands on a woman, bottom line. So we can speculate about a lot of different things but we need to make sure it is very clear is what we saw in this video is him actually putting his hands on a woman and that is where it is personally for me.“
The former Ravens linebacker was then asked by ESPN colleague Suzy Kolber why this was personal for him.
“My mom went through that,” Lewis said. “It was one of the greatest things that drove me in my life and that was to make sure a man never touched my mom again. I witnessed that. There were times I went through beatings with her ... That is why for me for it stings because he is a friend and I’ve always tried to take this young man and give him something different and teach him something different, educating him while he was going along his process … When you watch this video you see that something was lost by him, by this young man. Something leadership was lost. He got out there and started doing his own thing and what it is in the dark is going to come to light."
Asked if there was a comparison between Lewis and Rice (Lewis’ past includes the double homicide in Atlanta 13 years ago for which he was originally charged with two counts of murder. In exchange for his testimony against two men who were with Lewis that night, the charges against him were reduced and he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice), Lewis said there was no comparison.
“This is nothing about me personally,” Lewis said. "I spoke with the owner of the Ravens today, Steve Bisciotti, and listening to what Steve was saying about the reasons why Ray Rice will never play for the Ravens again. When he saw this video himself, he put his daughter and he put anyone connecting to him that was a female, he put them in that position. You have to take a step back when you are an owner or anyone who walks in a room and you see that type of evidence that you have not heard before or seen before. One thing Steve made very clear: There is no comparison of me and Ray Rice. It is night and day. It is night and day of anything we have ever been through and that's why both situations are totally different."
Lewis said he reached out to Rice on Monday via text and described Rice as being in a very low place.
“Sometimes friends tell you what you want to hear, and best friends tell you what you need to hear,” Lewis said. “I told him I will be there to talk to him. I really went to sit down and I want to know what is going on in his heart and I want to know what his mindset is and what is next for Ray Rice. I am not talking about football. I am talking about the man. Where do you go from here as a man? Where is your focus right now?
"So me and him have been going back and forth texting on a lot of different things but I wanted to let him know I am still encouraged … He has to understand that. 'How do you find my way out of this?' You humble yourself and figure out ways to get out of this and you seek counsel. That is why I am going to definitely meet with him as soon as I get home and be the same mentor I was the first time he ever walked through the door.
“It’s tough to be talked about by everybody, but when you are talked about with something like this, it is not a good thing. Me texting back and forth with him, the place he keeps saying he is at is kind of the place I want to remove him from because he feels like the whole world is after him and they are, and they should be. But he has to figure out a way to grab strength … Ray Rice is at a very low place and he should be, but I think there are ways for him to find his way out of it.”
Asked last year by The MMQB whether he should (and what he would bring) to a conversation about Aaron Hernandez or other controversial issues, Lewis offered the following: “It would only be to give a brief explanation on what you know. Because if you are talking about getting into the case -- what happened, how it happened -- that’s the judge’s job, that’s the police’s job. Having gone through the things I have been through, what I learned from that is everybody has something they want to say, and 80 percent of them are illiterate. You have to be careful with it. You can’t speak about something you do not know. Give your opinion, and keep it moving from there.”
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines biggest stories of the week in sports media.
1. The lead producers for the Thursday Night Football pregame collaboration between CBS and the NFL Network not only come from different editorial philosophies but offer a dramatic contrast in height. Shawn Robbins, who works for CBS Sports, stands 6-foot-9 1/2, making him one of the tallest production people in sports television. NFL Network senior producer Chris Weerts clocks in at a robust 5-5. The two colleagues will oversee 10 different announcers and two on-site sets each Thursday for a unique pregame show that starts on a cable network, morphs to a broadcast network and will continue to simulcast on a cable network when the broadcast network takes center stage.
The details: Before every Thursday Night Football game (which will kick off at 8:25 p.m. ET), NFL Total Access Kickoff will air on the NFL Network beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET. That portion of the pregame show will feature mostly NFL Network talent including host Rich Eisen and analysts Michael Irvin, Marshall Faulk and Steve Mariucci appearing live from a set outside each stadium. Robbins and Weerts said they traveled to each stadium on the TNF schedule this spring and summer to investigate the best set locations for fan involvement and energy.
“We wanted to be in the most heavily trafficked fan area so in some stadiums the NFL Network set will be part of the tailgate area and in others inside the gates,” Weerts said. “We will be wherever the pregame energy is.”
CBS will pick up the pregame show at 7:30 p.m. ET, with host James Brown and analysts Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders on a set inside the stadium.
“One thing that we stressed is that we are treating it like one show,” Weerts said. “We have the option to use any and all talent at any time. The goal from 6:00 p.m. until kickoff is you are getting one show and all the talent and production from both networks. We want to do what makes the most sense to create the best show.”
Robbins and Weerts will be in different production trucks at the stadium but they will communicate on a shared line throughout the show.
“We work for different places but we are Thursday Night Football and this came from our bosses going into this: This is one show and a collaboration,” Robbins said. “The competitiveness for us is to be better than what is out there. I don’t think there is competition within us. Everyone wins if we have a great show.”
Both producers said they consider the enterprise not only a pregame show for Thursday Night Football but also the first pregame show of the week.
“The goal is to do the best show we possibly can and the higher the quality of production we have whenever a viewer turns us on, it’s more likely they will turn us on earlier the following week,” Weerts said.
1a. Asked how CBS will handle the Rice dismissal on Thursday Night Football, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said his group held a conference call on Monday afternoon with pregame producers to discuss the issue. “We will address it early in our pregame show and in the first segment at 7:30 p.m,” McManus said. “I’m sure our guys will have strong opinions and we will give them enough time to express their opinions.” Brian Rolapp, Executive Vice President of Media for the NFL, said his network would cover Rice “as the news story that it is.”
1b. CBS Sports NFL analyst Phil Simms addressed the Ravens’ terminating Rice’s contract on Monday: “The video was so graphic and so alarming that you figured something like this might happen,” Simms said. “Of course I am appalled. I am sad for his wife and family. I think the Ravens handled it the right way and had no choice to let him go.”
2. In Monday’s media column I profiled the unlikely journey of Around The Horn host Tony Reali from researcher to on-air talent for ABC and ESPN.
2a. I asked Reali what he thought would happen to Pardon The Interruption after Kornheiser and Wilbon exit the show.
“Tony Kornheiser is a singular talent,” Reali said. “Michael Wilbon is a singular talent. [Producers] Erik Rydholm and Matthew Kelliher are singular producers. The first thing Tony ever said to me was, 'Rent, Don’t Buy!' He thought this show was going to end in the first commercial break. Probably still thinks that. It’s not and I don’t see it ending anytime soon."
3. Sports Business Daily assistant managing editor Austin Karp said Fox led all NFL telecasts for Week 1 with a 17.4 overnight for its national window, which featured the 49ers' win over the Cowboys in 89 percent of U.S. markets. NBC drew a 15.1 overnight for the Sunday Night Football opener between the Broncos and Colts. As for the pregame shows, Karp said the ratings were down for Week 1 compared to last year. Fox NFL Sunday drew a 3.6 rating, down from a 4.0 last year. CBS’ The NFL Today drew a 3.0 rating (down from a 3.3) and ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown drew a 1.7 (down from a 2.0) .
3b. The NFL will recognize the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key's writing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" on its broadcasts this week, starting with Thursday Night Football on CBS. You’ll also see similar tributes on CBS and Fox on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., NBC’s Sunday Night Football and next week’s Monday Night Football game. An NFL spokesperson said there will also be a 30-second NFL Films piece that will run in-stadium. The pieces are narrated by actor Forest Whitaker.
4. Fox drew a 4.0 overnight rating for Oregon’s win over Michigan State, the best regular-season college football game ever recorded on the net. Karp reported that ABC’s USC-Stanford game led all college football games with a 4.6 overnight. NBC drew a 3.0 overnight for Notre Dame’s win over Michigan on Saturday night.
4a. The U.S. Open final between Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki -- competing against the 'Niners-Cowboys game -- drew a healthy 4.0 overnight rating.
5. Sports Business Daily writers John Ourand and John Lombardo reported the NBA, ESPN and Turner are expected to reach an agreement in principle on new long-term media deals by the start of the regular season.
5a. Former All-Pro linebacker Takeo Spikes has joined SiriusXM NFL radio. He’ll appear Saturdays at 7 p.m. ET with former Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik. Former Giants offensive lineman and Fox NFL analyst David Diehl, who hosted a weekly show on the channel during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, returns to host a show Wednesdays at 7 a.m. ET.
5b. Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein will work his 100th pay-per-view telecast on September 13 for the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana rematch on Showtime PPV. Bernstein’s first on-air PPV assignment came on November 10, 1983 when he worked the Marvin Hagler-Roberto Duran fight.
5c. The Big East Conference has created the Big East Digital Network, a conference-specific HD digital channel offering free live streaming of 80-100 sporting events annually. The Big East Digital Network will begin with the 2014-15 academic year.
5d. ESPN’s College GameDay returns to Fargo, N.D. on Saturday. The show will originate from downtown Fargo ahead of the Incarnate Word at North Dakota State game on ESPN3 (3:30 p.m.).