I Am Not Alone

I Was Not Alone


130203_ray_lewis_4aI carefully watched the play of Ray Lewis in the Super Bowl Sunday.  I wrote an article about the game I saw, and included comments about Lewis.  He missed a lot of tackles, and was slow to respond to the game, especially Frank Gore, and LaMichael James.

Now, CBS analyst and former Ravens’ teammate, Trevor Pryce, talked about it as well.  He had this to say on the Jim Rome show:

“Half of his playoff check should go to Dannell Ellerbe for making that last play on that last fade route,” said Pryce. “The other half to Greg Roman, the 49ers offensive coordinator.

“I think (Lewis) played with a case of the nerves. I think he had the yips. I really do.”

Lewis is clearly not the same player he once was. He struggled to get off his blocks, looked real bad on a play where 49ers running back Frank Gore side-stepped him in the hole and Lewis could not react quickly enough to keep up with 49ers receivers and tight ends that came into his area on crossing routes.

Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post asked these questions yesterday:

“Do you look at him as the inspirational leader of men he touts himself as and whom his teammates swear by? Do you view him as selfless or selfish?

Do you view those animated dances during home-game introductions as Ray being about Ray or as Lewis motivating his teammates by channeling his frenetic energy and emotion?

Are you bothered by the adulation Lewis is bathed in when it is clear he never has come clean about details of that unsolved nightclub stabbing and double murder on Jan. 31, 2000, before the Super Bowl in Atlanta?”

These are all questions I have asked throughout his career.

I have never claimed he was not a very good player.  He is most definitely one of the top ten linebackers of all time.  I’m not sure where I’d put him, because the game is far different today that it was in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

At the top of my list will always be Dick Butkus.  His own team feared the man who stalked the gridiron like a mother lion stalking her prey.  I am very glad I got to see him play before his knees let him down.  After him come Bobby Bell of the Chiefs, Ray Nitschke of the Packers, Jack Lambert, and Jack Ham of the Steelers, Sam Huff of the Redskins, and the Nick Buoniconti of the Dolphins, not particularly in that order.  And I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.

None of them could have accomplished what they did without the other 10 members of the defense playing their positions well.

For example; my favorite player is a linebacker.  His name is LaMarr Woodley, and he, (of course), plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  You don’t hear his name called a lot in the games, because he plays his position.  Playing left outside linebacker in the “three-four”, he is often in pass coverage, or in containment of the offensive right side.  At Michigan he was a defensive end.  He looks even bigger than his vital statistics of 6 feet 2 inches tall, and weighing 265 pounds.  He is an unmovable force, and most teams run the ball away from his side.

Lewis is definitely in the top ten of all time as a linebacker.  Brady is in the top ten as a quarterback.  But the hyperbole I continue to hear from the ‘experts’ is inaccurate.  There’s not enough film to watch of the older greats.  They played in times when blocks in the back were legal, grabbing the face mask was legal, cut blocks were legal.  It was a distinctly different game physically.  The defense was even allowed to hit the quarterbacks, imagine that!

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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