Ray Lewis, Ravens report in shape

Barely sweating and not even breathing hard following a strenuous opening practice of training camp, All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis' chiseled physique and elite conditioning levels still represent the gold standard for the Baltimore Ravens. .

Heading into his 16th NFL season, Lewis seemed impervious to the oppressive heat and humidity as the Ravens conducted their first practice since the end of the lockout.

Unlike several of his teammates who experienced cramps during three hours on the field Thursday afternoon, including rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith and fullback Jason McKie, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was in constant motion.

"He's been in great shape every year," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But I think this is the best shape that I've seen him in." Despite four months away from football as the labor dispute erased the offseason, the Ravens appear to be in good shape with many players, especially defensive linemen Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones, having lost a significant amount of weight and body fat.

"I think the overall conditioning is excellent," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I'm pleasantly surprised by the shape our guys are in. We think they are in very good shape. We had guys blowing the conditioning test away. To come out and push through this practice, it's a tough practice. "This is the best thing for us. A game is three hours. You have to train yourself to get ready and go out there and play like maniacs for three hours. This is the best thing we could have been doing, and we should have been doing it all along."

How does Lewis maintain his edge? Lewis constantly reinvents his training regimen and diet, experimenting with different ways to shock the muscles. In the past, Lewis has run up steep hills at Oregon Ridge with heavy dumbbells in each hand. He has practiced martial arts, done aquatic workouts in a swimming pool and now he has taken up cycling.

"One thing I think this down time did do for a person like myself is it gave me a lot of time to myself, which let me do anything I wanted to do as far as cross-training in so many different areas," Lewis said. "And that's what I did. When you get away from all the hard cutting, you can come back kind of refreshed.

"Your body usually follows your mind. I couldn't be more excited to kick the season off right now. I can't describe for you how healthy I am right now. I'm really excited for football." Lewis did everything but sport a Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelet as he gushed about the benefits of cycling on his body and how it reduces the wear and tear on his joints while pushing his cardiovascular levels.

"I don't like giving away all my secrets, but I will give one secret away," Lewis said. "Cycling is one of the greatest sports I the world. The respect on what type of cardio shape that gets you in with low impact, that's the key to it. To really be able to train hard and get your heart rate as high as you can get it and then come back the next day and the next day without the pounding.

"First couple of times I went out there, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!' The fatigue that you go through, it's really a mind thing on how you have to breathe and just let your legs keep going, going, going, going. Then you get back on the field and you go back to running and running isn't the same because you can't take as many steps running as you can cycling."

The constant presence for the Ravens has been Lewis, the second draft pick in franchise history after Jonathan Ogden during the inaugural season in 1996.

Now, Lewis is possibly saying goodbye to four teammates who were released Thursday afternoon: tight end Todd Heap, wide receiver Derrick Mason, running back Willis McGahee and nose guard Kelly Gregg.

Lewis has watched teammates like Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson leave the organization. "I've seen people come and go," Lewis said. "I've seen some of the greats come and go, and that's the business side of it. It's not that we just got rid of those guys and we're totally done with them. I'm certain that they're try to work something out and try to bring those guys back in whatever capacity we can."

About the only complaint Harbaugh had was missing several players, including offensive tackle Marshal Yanda after signing his $32 million contract, because of new NFL rules that prevent unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players from practicing until Aug. 4.

"We're short a bunch of guys because of those crazy rules that say your unrestricted free agents can't practice," Harbaugh said. Despite the hard work the players put in without supervision during the offseason, Harbaugh readily acknowledged that something has been lost by not having minicamps, organized team activities and a formal conditioning program.

"Absolutely, there's not even a question," Harbaugh said. "It's mental, it's learning the offense, it's technique and just being in football shape. If you haven't played, it's really hard to understand what it is. You can't replicate it unless you're out there at football practice, and that's what we'll do. That happens fast. Two or three days of this, four days of this, then we will get through practice in a strong way and then we'll really take off."

Ravens Insider Top Stories