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The oldest of five siblings, with his father having walked out for good when Ray was just six, he took it upon himself to become the family's protector. Jacks were 15, queens 20, kings As he grew stronger he began to excel at football and wrestling. Enrolled at the high school his father — also a talented sportsman — had attended, Lewis made a point of breaking every one of his father's school records. But even that could not provide him with closure.

Two decades, one Super Bowl victory and multiple NFL records later, Lewis is still driven, in part, by the same demons. And if you never forget it, then your motivation never stops," Lewis tells the Guardian when asked what keeps him coming back, after 16 years in one of the more punishing positions in such a brutally physical sport.


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I take that same pain and I chase it every time I walk in a weight room. Any time I feel like I don't want to get up or whatever, it just clicks in.

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FMIA Week 9: The Patriots Just Keep Winning and They Really Don’t Care

It is a message that confronts any visitor to Lewis's house, where there hangs a picture bearing the message "Pain is a Gift from God". Religion, too, plays a big part in Lewis's life these days — popping up in almost every answer he gives during our interview. He has been known to preach the Christian Gospel at his church on the Sundays — when he is not busy distributing God's gift to NFL running backs. Even the darkest period of Lewis's adult life is perceived by him as just another step in a divine plan. Only Lewis, along with the handful of others present, truly knows what happened outside Atlanta's Cobalt Lounge nightclub on 31 January , but the court case which followed is familiar even to many with no interest in his sport.

In the small hours of the morning after the game, he was with a group that became involved in a fight which started outside the club and finished with two young men — Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar — stabbed to death.

Lewis, along with two others, would subsequently be charged with murder. But in the court of public opinion, not everyone was convinced. Certain fans of opposing teams, in particular, would remind him many times over the next few seasons that they believed he should be behind bars. Twelve years on, Lewis might not have won everyone over but he has succeeded in greatly rehabilitating his public image — in part through his prodigious charity work, geared heavily towards creating support networks for kids in disadvantaged areas.

His visit to London, which was paid for out of his own pocket, was prompted by a letter from an amateur team, the Warriors, who are seeking to use the sport as a tool to keep young men from tough neighbourhoods out of gangs. Because he knew that I would never turn my back on him. Now he receives all the glory, because he was able to expose who I was as a person, through a tragedy. But when people meet me, they meet what my mother raised, which was a hell of a man, by herself. And that's my honour, that's what my goal is, to always keep my mum's name ringing, because I know what sacrifices she went through for me.

If it is hard not to wonder how the victims' families would feel about the deaths being cast as part of a holy plan to glorify Lewis, then it is also only fair to note that he prefaces any discussion of Atlanta by stressing that his only hesitation in revisiting the topic stems from a desire not to cause any further hurt.

It cannot have been easy for those same families to watch Lewis be crowned as a Super Bowl champion just one year later — the screaming, swaggering, shimmying leader of a record-breaking Baltimore defence. An intentionally intimidating on-field persona played into the hands of those seeking to portray him as a violent brute, yet in person he comes across as anything but — genial, optimistic and never far removed from the broadest of grins. Becoming somebody else on gameday is, to Lewis's mind, just part of the job. As he neatly puts it: He would know — having become arguably the greatest middle linebacker ever.

The first player ever to combine 40 sacks and 30 interceptions over the course of a career, Lewis has been named to the league's all-star game, the Pro Bowl, 13 times in 16 years. His longevity is extraordinary. Now 37, he is not as fast as he used to be but he still led the Ravens in tackles last season, despite missing four games. Asked who he considers the best linebacker of all time, Lewis's first thought is Junior Seau — the former San Diego Charger, Miami Dolphin and New England Patriot who took his own life earlier this year, at the age of just Lawrence changed the way the game was played.

Any time you can change a game, you can make people adjust their whole game plan, then you have to be considered number one or even zero. What else would you rather do than run out in front of 70, people and throw a football? Almost sheepishly, Cora showed me the front of his ballcap during the first quarter Sunday night. A University of Miami cap. Cora went to the U, and he was a third-round pick of the Dodgers six weeks after Lewis was a first-round pick of the Ravens in Biggest moments of the game, be the same.

Cora will meet back up with Belichick before spring training, he hopes. He asked Belichick for advice Sunday night, when they talked pre-game. You have to fill me in how we keep the team focused and how can we do this. Left tackle Trent Brown , acquired from the Niners in an April trade. Patterson, who came in a trade from Oakland. And Gordon, he of the six prior suspensions, who came in a trade from Cleveland. We hate to lose more than we love to win. We hate to lose. You have to love work. You have to love football. But you look at a night like tonight, and you see Cordarrelle Patterson, who really had to buy in, and the best returner in football is a running back now.

But we will catch excellence. On a night when it was Brady versus Rodgers, the New England defense and some players who got here 15 minutes ago carried the day. No one was surprised. If you heard the crowd in the Superdome on Sunday for the visit of the previously undefeated Rams, you know why home-field advantage in the NFC is so important. Nine years ago, the Saints discovered what home-field in the NFC meant. The Superdome gave them a jolt in a divisional playoff rout of Arizona, and blew away some Vikings in the stunning NFC Championship win a week later.

There are three prime contenders for top seed in the NFC—the Rams, Saints and Panthers—but none would have a home-field edge like the Saints would. Finishing with the Cards and Niners helps tremendously. But they have a game against Atlanta and finish with a tough trio at Carolina, Pittsburgh at home, Carolina at home.

NFL kickers discuss misses, pressure and job security

And they finish thusly: Saints, Falcons, at Saints. And Carolina has to catch up and pass two one-loss teams. We have a lot of weapons too. The one thing I like when I watch our team practice is how hard the young guys work. They know what it takes to be great. There were 83 points in the first game between those AFC foes Oct. There were 80 points scored Sunday in Rams-Saints. That doubleheader would be a referendum on whether the league needs to put defense back in pro football. The NFL would sign up and root for and conference title games.

The last six Browns coaches to be fired have this in common: They were fired within 24 hours of losing by double-digits to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 0. The next day, owner Randy Lerner fired Romeo Crennel after four playoff-less seasons and a record. Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 9. The next day, owner Randy Lerner fired Eric Mangini after two playoff-less seasons and a record. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal. Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland The next day, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Pat Shurmur after two playoff-less seasons and a record.

Pittsburgh 20, Cleveland 7. Pittsburgh 29, Cleveland That night, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Mike Pettine after two playoff-less seasons and a record. A team statement said: Pittsburgh 33, Cleveland The next day, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Hue Jackson after 2. By the way, the Browns are believed to be the only team in NFL history to employ seven coaches and seven general managers in a year period.

I got that question over the years as much as I was ever asked the same thing about, say, Brett Favre or Tom Brady. I was a rookie beat guy in Cincinnati in , the Bengals had three first-round picks, and I called him out of nowhere after the draft to get his take on how the Bengals did. I have no recollection what he said, but he took 45 minutes to say it, and it was gold to a rookie from the sticks. Two years later, I was covering the Giants for Newsday. They were in the Super Bowl against Denver, and Zim was on the prowl the week before the game. I said I just guessed Parcells, a notorious early riser and coffee-aholic, would find the coffee in the team hotel, and I went down there Tuesday around 5: The next day, there Zim was too, carrying his ever-present gym bag full of notebooks and pens, a stopwatch and a white towel no idea why , pretending he just happened to be in a hotel lobby in southern California at 5: Z Bank and Trust.

And I knew the rules: When you sat next to him in a press box, only talk during pregame, halftime or timeouts or when he spoke to you, and give him plenty of room for his rainbow pens and wide notebook with the expansive hieroglyphics. There were lots of lessons: In the locker room afterward: I loved the fact that he embraced the complexity of the game. He hated relying on others to tell the story that he saw.

Write what you saw. That column, in so many ways, was the best way I could pay tribute to him. So I said it was complicated. I got royally pissed off at Zim a few times in my life. A chunk of people at SI hated him because of his tendency to not understand things like expense accounts and editors—or to understand and simply not accept the realities of our business. We served on the Hall of Fame voting committee for about 15 years together. Paul had passion about the Hall of Fame debates, and when we were on the committee, I appreciated so much his no-BS approach.

That is a nice way to put it. We are not allowed to discuss specifics of the debates, but I can say one time I was strongly in favor of a candidate, and he ripped the candidate up one side and down the other. Zim demolished the guy, and then jumped on him some more.

'Pain is a Gift from God'

He made it personal. The guy might not have belonged in the Hall. I never met anyone like him. I saw him the way he saw football: We all have our gifts. He gets proper due for his football stuff. He should get much more for his feature stories. They come to life right there on the page. At one time middle linebackers roamed the league like Goliaths. Nitschke, Butkus, Schmidt—names as tough as the people who carried them. Willie Lanier, with that pad he wore on the front of his helmet. Mike Curtis, the Animal. Bob Griese talks about staring across the line at Butkus and feeling his legs turn to jelly.

But then a few years ago something sad happened to these great middle linebackers. The defense robbed them of their identity. They divided, like an amoeba. The great gunfighters of the past had gone corporate. The last of them, the last of the great old middle linebackers, Jack Lambert, got his two years ago. And what position do you play, Mr. But this is the bright side: There are scores of people in the business who grew up on Dr. He was loyal to the newspaper guy, who was there every day for him. You just never knew what you were going to get with him. Paul was like 10 cats in a pillowcase.

He was always a surprise. But what a person to be married to. He made me feel so accepted, so loved. But he was such a fighter. He was not a fan—of any team. He was analytical, loved the game, respected the game, respected the strategy.

NFL: Ray Lewis tells Baltimore Ravens 'You got to play the game pissed off' | Sport | The Guardian

He was so brilliant, he would have been bored by an easy game. He liked complex sports. He liked rugby for its honest brutality. But he loved football for its complexity. In his final years, unable to speak more than a few words, Dr. Z won a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Writing. THAT is a writer. He was such a good writer. He could write about anything, and I loved reading it. Sometimes I just sat there, astounded by what I was reading. We could go on a trip, do something totally apart from football, and he would not mention football for weeks.

If he was doing something else, he would talk about that—wine, books, travel, movies. One Super Bowl week, he took a few of us to a graveyard. He wanted to read the headstones! But he still found humor in things. The work … all the effort he made to forge ahead. Michael Thomas, wide receiver, New Orleans. His yards on 12 catches set a franchise record and his yard catch-and-run touchdown sealed the first loss for the Rams this season. Nick Mullens , quarterback, San Francisco.

Not a bad NFL debut 16 of 22, percent accuracy, three touchdowns, no picks, What I noticed about Mullens was how bizarrely confident he looked throughout. And no one, from Kyle Shanahan to the guys he barely knows on defense, were surprised. Danielle Hunter, defensive end, Minnesota. He picked a good day—a division game the Vikings had to have, with the offense struggling—to play the best game of his career.

Hunter sacked Matthew Stafford 3. Hunter scooped up an ill-advised pitch-turned-fumble by Stafford and sprinted 32 yards down the left side for a touchdown, icing the Vike win. Matt Haack , punter, Miami. Haack, a second-year undrafted punter from Arizona State, punted nine times for a fairly pedestrian But consider that it was a field-position game, with two bad offenses playing, and Jets returner Andre Roberts was having the best return season in the league coming into the game. Roberts got only 17 return yards on nine punts. Damian Williams, running back, Kansas City.

This is what you need to do to ensure a roster spot as an insurance running back: And then you need to execute the way Williams did against the Browns. Kyle Shanahan, head coach, San Francisco. Starting an undrafted quarterback who had never played a snap in an NFL game his third starting quarterback in nine games , Shanahan and his staff coached up Nick Mullens and a broken offense to a win over the fractured but still an NFL franchise, at least for now Raiders. Shanahan gets tremendous credit in my book for having his team this ready to play in a game that meant very little.

Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit.

Adam Schein

Whatever, Stafford, midway through the fourth quarter and down 11 at Minnesota, took off on a scramble, was about to hit some traffic wide right, saw Kerryon Johnson out of the corner of his eye, attempted a quick pitch to the rookie runner. Neither did the state of Michigan. Jon Gruden, head coach, Oakland. Indianapolis and San Francisco, in all games not played against Oakland this year, are Sam Darnold , quarterback, New York Jets.

Took the ball with 11 minutes left at Miami, down , and these were his last four drives: That fourth quarter could well have sealed the fate of coach Todd Bowles as head coach in a season, and Darnold has to take a big part of the responsibility. In 25 possessions against Miami this year, Darnold drove for one touchdown. I heard him using a cadence I know it sounds pretty similar to mine. I know he switched up his feet during a shotgun.

I mean, really got a lot of respect for him. I just had a great relationship with him. I had a lot of trust in him. He was always honest and whatever he told you, you could take to the bank. What you do with it is on you. Never heard a coach admonish a reporter for poor posture. The Detroit News sure had some fun with it , though. Some team may well pay him handsomely. Through eight games—half a season—since Bell entered the league in , the relative production of Conner versus Bell is just about a wash.

In each season, I chose to use the totals from his first eight games of the season games four through Other than keeping him fresher for free agency in , which is certainly part of this, Bell has lost his gamble. The biggest reason Adrian Peterson has found new life in Washington? Because of running back injuries, Washington worked out Darkwa, the former Giant, on Aug. The team offered Darkwa the NFL minimum salary, and because he started 11 games for the Giants last year, he felt he was worth more.

So Darkwa turned down the deal. Williams and Schaffer were dubious. But now they were pretty far down their list of options, past the Orleans Darkwa stage. So Peterson and two others worked out on Aug. Club officials noticed Peterson in a minute workout not even seem to breathe hard. The other two backs, on a couple of occasions, were bent over, semi-gasping. After eight weeks, he was fifth in the NFL with rushing yards, for an in-his-prime 4. Would Darkwa have been as productive? Peterson is on the perfect team for him—a power-running team with a coach, Jay Gruden, who likes to wear down the opposition late in games when he can with a physical run game.

7-Year-Old Football PRODIGY - Blaze The Great Highlights

Peterson, for instance, had 18 of his 26 carries and of his rushing yards against the Giants in Week 8 in the second half. Assuming current interim coach Gregg Williams is not named the permanent coach after this season, the head coach the Browns hire will be the sixth that the Haslams have employed. The Seattle left tackle is winning on