R. Lewis comments unlikely to trigger a trade

OWINGS MILLS -- If former All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis is hoping to force a trade or his release by inflicting a verbal assault on the Baltimore Ravens, the self-described Michael Jordan of football might be disappointed.

Team officials said that they are not seeking to trade Lewis, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who delivered a seemingly cryptic "No comment" instead of giving coach Brian Billick a vote of confidence in a Comcast Sportsnet interview. Lewis criticized the defensive personnel and acknowledged interest in other teams during an ESPN interview.

Although Lewis denied ever telling the team he wants a trade, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome have previously acknowledged that Lewis asked to be traded prior to the 2004 season.

"We're aware of the interview," team spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "Like coach Billick said Thursday, we'll base our conclusions on our interaction with the players."

Lewis' agent, David Dunn, was traveling and unavailable to comment, according to his office. Lewis has reportedly been authorized to have his agent try to broker a trade, but it's unlikely to happen for several reasons.

The seven-time All-Pro turns 31 next month and is recovering from hamstring surgery that forced him onto injured reserve last season for the second time in the past four years.

Teams are unlikely to give Baltimore a first- or second-round draft pick in exchange for a middle linebacker whose health and game appear to be declining.

Lewis' contract is another obstacle. He's slated to make $5.5 million in base salary in 2006 with remaining salaries of $6.5 million apiece in 2007 and 2008 as the final $18.5 million of a $50 million contract he signed in 2002.

Lewis was rumored to be lobbying for a trade at the Pro Bowl, and Bisciotti met with him in Florida earlier this year to clear the air.

Billick said Thursday that he can't control the conclusions people might draw from Lewis' comments.

"All I know is Ray is in the building," Billick said. "Ray is interactive. He's working hard and he's upbeat about going forward. That's what I draw from a direct interaction with Ray.

"I can't answer for Ray. You need to put that question directly to Ray if there was more to that. Speculation about what something means beyond what is said, I'm not real comfortable with that. I have no problem with what was said."

Lewis paused and smiled before declining to comment when asked about Billick.

In 2000 when Baltimore won the Super Bowl, Lewis thrived behind 350-pound defensive tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. Now, Lewis is playing behind Kelly Gregg and Justin Bannan, who each weigh about 300 pounds, after 350-pound Maake Kemoeatu signed a $23 million contract with the Carolina Panthers.

"The thing that frustrates a person like myself is that if you don't give me the proper tools to be dominant," Lewis told ESPN. "That hasn't been brought up to say, ‘I've got the Michael Jordan of football on my team but I'm going to take Scottie Pippen away from him.

"We won the Super Bowl in 2000 because I had two guys in front of me that told me, "You will not be touched.' When you took those guys away from me, you took a piece of me with them."

When the Ravens didn't sign 365-pound, 38-year-old nose guard Ted Washington, Washington's agent predicted that Lewis would be fuming.

"What is Ray Lewis going to say about these little guys playing in front of him instead of Big Ted?" Angelo Wright said last month after Washington signed with the Cleveland Browns. "He's not going to like it."

Lewis said he wishes that he could run free to make tackles like other linebackers.

"When you're out there fighting and going through things that you shouldn't be going through, when you see other linebackers just running all day, it's amazing," Lewis said. "You're thinking, ‘Wow, if I could run like that, oh yeah!'"

Lewis technically denied that he would like to play for another team, but said other situations are attractive to him.

"I've never told one time anybody in the organization that I don't want to be in Baltimore," Lewis said. "The issue is: Are you going to let me do what I do and if not, let me go!

"You play the game so your dominance is showing. If your dominance isn't showing, you have to ask yourself a serious question: ‘What am I doing?'"

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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