LB Talk - Ray Lewis Dishes on Giants

The first person you think about when you hear the words Baltimore Ravens is intense middle linebacker Ray Lewis. That always has been the case and probably will be for quite some time. Lewis held a conference call with the New York media during which he discussed Sunday's game between the Super Bowl XXXV combatants.

Q: What is it like for a middle linebacker to be preparing for a running game the way Giants have it going now?
A: I don't think – really, being truthful – like nothing outside of just doing what you do. They like to run the ball, we like to stop the run. That is a bottom line fact. It isn't talking about this, talking about that. That is what they do well, that is what we do well. So the bottom line is that it is going to be a good game. And so you don't prepare differently, you just prepare the same way you prepare. Our guys do a great job in just understanding what type of mentality that is – not letting anyone come in and just run the ball on you. And I think the Giants do a great job with telling people that they are going to run the ball on them. So, hey, we will find out Sunday, man.

Q: So in a game like this where you know they are going to run, do< B> you get more excited for it?
A: Honestly, I told my guys this the other day. For us, it is just the next game. And that is the thing; that is my challenge as the leader of this team. No matter what somebody is good at, if we see a good passing attack, we know that our secondary, our front four, have to get after their front to make sure they don't have enough time. If it is the run, it is something that we have lived by our whole life. The bottom line is that we stop the run. That is fact. We are not talking about anything so if you get up for it or not, I don't think so. I just think you just come in and do what you do. Know what I am saying? Because when you get up for it – that means individually you try to do something more special than you should be doing. And for me right now, I just want my defense playing the way we are playing. Understanding the way they run the ball. They run the ball very effectively. They use their three running backs in ways that you don't see a lot of people – that is kind of like ‘old school.' They have a very ‘old school' mentality. And you can kind of see why they are the defending Super Bowl champs right now. Because they have that ‘old school' mentality t hat, we are going to establish the run. And I am a true believer of if you run the ball in this League, you are going to have success. And that is why I believe a lot of their credit goes to their running game. They are using those three backs tremendously, just getting them out, I think, over 200 yards the last two games. So I just think they are doing a great thing. But I think being over excited I think you take yourself out of the mode on who you are as a team and as a defense as well.

Q: Are the Giants a team in the mold of Tom Coughlin. Can you almost see the image of the head coach in the team?
A: You know what, and the way they play defense and the way they are running the ball, you definitely have to give credit to Tom Coughlin. Everybody says – I don't know Tom personally like that – but an outside perception everybody says he is a tough guy and he is always straight forward and things like that. And if you watch the way they are playing football, they are playing football just like that – straight forward, pounding people, playing defense the way they are playing defense, letting that defense cut loose on people and just having a certain mentality of, ‘this is the way we are going to win games,' so absolutely.

Q: There aren't too many running backs in the League that are almost 270 pounds. When you look at Brandon Jacobs what do you see in him and what is the best way to stop him?
A: He is a physical back. He is a physical back. He plays the game very physical. The only way to stop somebody like that is to run into them full speed. ……………. The name of football is hit or be hit. So the bottom line, I don't care how big his size is, how big …. Of that is. Football is football. And when you strap on your chin strap I don't care how big you are, deal with whoever has the ball and let life take care of itself. You know what I'm saying? You just know that I'm not – as a middle linebacker – you don't want to let them start getting to your secondary like you see the Eagles and a lot of people did. Like big gaping holes the way he is getting up on your corners and your secondary. I don't think that is an even match. But when you are dealing with the front seven in there with linebackers meeting running backs and fullbacks and things, then let it take care of itself. But our job is just to not let him get to our secondary because he can be an imposing threat back there.

Q: A little different, though. You don't run into a 264-pound running back very often.
A: Okay, so what are you going to do, run from it? No, you just play football. It doesn't matter – you care about – I don't look on the schedule and look at somebody's weight and say, "Oh, guess what, he is 260. I can't run into him." Hell no. I'm chasing him. It doesn't matter; size has never mattered in this game. And the day you put size in this game you lose all your creditability on why you play the game. You play the game for that. You play the game – I remember these same stories about how Eddie George was. He was so big and so bruising. Okay, let football take care of itself. That is what it has always done and it always will do the same thing.

Q: Early in Tom Coughlin's tenure there were a lot of complaints about his rules. At the end of the day do you think NFL players want discipline?
A: Absolutely. More so ……… I just think honestly, hell, with the way this business is structured and the flexibility that is given, I just think a lot of it is=2 0needed. Really, you can't get everybody that is going to come to work every day and be totally committed, totally bought in. It is just facts; it is just facts in any business in life, not just football, but any business in life. So you know when you have someone who is a die hard – just a strict man like that, it is good. I don't have a problem with it. I don't ever have a problem with somebody being strict. I have a problem when somebody doesn't treat a man like a man. Now if you don't treat a man like a man, that is a totally different issue. But if you are just coaching, you have strict things that come with it. Hey, run your program, buddy, I'm right with you, man.

Q: Eli played down there, probably the worst game of his career. He was a rookie; I think he had a passer rating of 0.0. What do you expect from him this time and what do you remember from that game?
A: I think he has made some great improvements in just being safer with the ball and things like that. So you can just give him all of the credit. Even when you watch him play now, when people are getting to him, he is making some plays, getting out of the pocket and making some big throws just like he did last week against Ph illy, the same thing. So I just think his adjustments and their adjustments – it is going to be ‘keep the game limited, run the football the way they are running the football and let them have to make the short throws and not let us get after him the way we want to get after him.'

Q: When you have been part of a defense for a long time and sometimes the offense hasn't held up its end of the deal, when they put a rookie from Delaware in at quarterback, what were you thinking?
A: Here we go. I went up to Joe and told him just the same way I felt when I first saw that kid and the way he can throw the ball and his mentality of how he wanted to play this game, you can't do anything but back him. Like I told him, "You don't have to be Joe Montana your first year. All you have to do is come in and be Joe Flacco. We have your back, always understand that. It is a team game; it is a 60-minute game. And that is it. You call … each game and just worry about 60 minutes at a time. Don't worry about what your stats are, what your numbers are, 60 minutes and the bottom line is going to take care of itself."

Q: We talked to you four years ago I think before and after you played Eli Manning the first time. You talked about, with a rookie quarterback you knew you could get into his head and you could sense that he might have been a little lost out there. Do you still try to get into a quarterback's head when he is a veteran or do you figure you can't do that to Eli anymore?
A: Honestly, I think you can get into any person's head if you get after them and really start confusing them and start hitting them the way they don't want to be hit and then confusing his reads or anything. So I don't care if you are a rookie or a veteran, if you let any defense get after you the way our defense has been getting after people, then it can be a frustrating day. But the bottom line, even when you watch film, they are doing a great job even on third-downs. They are not letting him throw as much on third down. You see #34 come in the game and then everybody is in that pass defense. And bam, he is just handing off a run; first down; first down, first down. So the thing of it is, you just understand and don't complicate it so much the way you were about Eli so much to where their three backs are having the success that they are having. And if you look at the film, that is what is happening. Everybody is putting their passing defense out there in these three and four wides. And then they are just simply running the ball. So just getting to Eli; getting to any good quarterback, whether it is rookie or veteran quarterback, I just think it is disguising your blitzes and just really getting hits on him.

Q: As well as you guys played defense the Super Bowl year, is that the standard you are always striving to get back to?
A: Always. Always. There is no other standard left. You have seen great defenses have great years. That is one thing. But it is a totally different mentality when you have a great defense and you go and win the Super Bowl. That standard sits alone by itself. And for me, being the lone veteran – one of the lone veterans – around here that was on that defense, you have to kind of instill into these guys that these are certain things that we have to do. Are we there yet? I don't think we are anywhere close to that. Are we talented and good? Heck, yeah. But to be that, you have to go cap that off with that Bowl. And that is what kind of solidifies true, true greatness.

Q: The Giants offensive line has been playing very well lately. What do you see when you look at them?
A: They are very aggressive and they stay on their blocks. They are getting after20people. You see these backs and not to take any credit away from these backs, but they are running into a hole so big – you are sitting there saying, "What in the world?" When you watch film you are like, "Okay, I have to move on to another film because I have to see at least somebody" – and things like that. So I just think offensively they have a great chemistry on the offensive line. I think they are really picking up a lot of the blitzes and dogs that people are trying to run at them. And that is why I think a lot of – being a veteran crew like that – I think it takes away a lot of pressure on your quarterback when you do have a veteran offensive line that.

Q: How about the way they use their fullback? Not a lot of teams still do that. You guys are one of them, though?
A: Oh yeah, I'm around a team that uses their fullback a lot. And that is what I say, that is kind of like ‘old school' mentality. ‘Old school mentality' is keep your front seven, your front seven, let them do all of your dirty work and let the outside guys just be there but let them know that the focus might not be to throw the ball 40 or 50 times.

Q: How vivid does the victory against the Giants i n that Super Bowl still remain for you?
A: That is something that I think every champion can always tell you, that that will never die. It will never leave you; that feeling will never leave. And that is why the burning desire inside of me is what keeps me going is to go back there; to go back there and touch that one more time, whether it is the Giants or whoever. It is as vivid as it is going to get, because that is the ultimate. That is why the great ones play this game and some of the great ones have never touched it. But that is why the great ones play this game. So that is something that always keeps my passion burning until I walk out of this game.

Q: Does it feel like yesterday or a long time ago?
A: It can never die. It feels just like yesterday because it never changes. It never changes even when you line up and hear the National Anthem, whatever. Those feelings, those butterflies are the same thing that you realize that ultimately you are fighting for a championship.

Q: How well do you know Antonio Pierce personally?
A: We have talked briefly. I don't know him like that, though.

Q: What do you think of him as a player? You guys always compare yourselves to each other as middle linebackers, I'm sure.
A: I like the way he plays the game. I just like the way he plays the game. We have talked briefly a couple of times. I like the way he plays the game. He plays the game the way the game is supposed to be played. ………………. And he is a very smart backer who plays the game with a very smart mentality and I just like his game overall.

Q: Do you have a lot of friends that are middle linebackers, guys around the League. Are you close with any of those guys?
A: Yeah, too many of them. I have friends at every position but yeah, middle linebackers are the most. All of them, … called me yesterday. Patrick Willis, just trying to help him with things they are going through. Just a lot of them, you know what I'm saying, the young boy out there in Oakland; all of them. I just really reach out to a lot of these young kids to really try to help them; educate them on the game and definitely when you are talking about middle linebackers and how the position should be played but taking your game to a different level by maybe this one little thing or maybe that one little thing. So as an ambassador of that position, that is kind of what I have already bought into, saying, "Let me pass down every piece of knowledge that I have."

Q: But not so much with Antonio, though?
A: You know what; me and Antonio haven't really talked like that. Like I said, we have a mutual friend in Jessie Armstead. And then I saw him at an event this year and I was on the phone with Jessie and I said some things to him. But like I said, we don't have each other's numbers where we call back and forth. Antonio is not one of the guys that I talk to.

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