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Ray Lewis To Sports Illustrated: The NFL Has Too Many Rules

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Ray Lewis Cool on the Red Carpet at the 12th Annual Espys

Sports journalists use the term “larger than life figure” for all sorts of people, but when it comes to Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis, the phrase is completely accurate. Lewis scares me a little. He doesn’t scare me in a way that would make me afraid to meet him-oh no, I’d LOVE to meet Ray Lewis. Would love to interview him and get inside what’s left of his mind (just kidding).

But he scares me in the sense that he’s so raw-verbally and physically. He’s a beast on auto pilot. A lawless enforcer. The toughest man among men. He’s an anomaly. Most guys don’t make it 15 years in the league. Most don’t even make it to 5 years. And playing the way that Lewis plays, it defies logic that he wasn’t one of the NFL’s former players a long time ago.

As his career comes to a close (could this be the year he retires?), it’s the dawning of a new era. He’s seen the game change…and change and change. And he ain’t too shy to say he doesn’t like it. Sports Illustrated profiles Lewis this month and like anything else Lewis is involved in-especially those Old Spice commercials-it’s more than a little intriguing.

“My goodness. You can’t do anything anymore. It’s a tragedy. Look what they’ve done to the greatest gladiator sport we’ve ever played. When you step on this gridiron, there’s something coming with it. That’s why you strap up the chinstrap. You sacrifice your body. You sacrifice everything you’ve got. That’s what the game has been. That’s why we praise the Dick Butkuses and the Jack Lamberts. Night Train Lane, the only thing he did was clothesline people. The stuff that Butkus did? If you did that now, people would be screaming on TV, ‘He’s out of control!’ I’m telling you, it’s a bitter subject.”

Bitter and also complicated. Lewis walks the same fine line—on one side the health of players, on the other the integrity and entertainment value of an immensely popular game—as the league itself. He is not only one of the best defensive players in the history of the NFL and a lock for the Hall of Fame. He is also an embodiment of the kind of athleticism and ferocity that get a man to the pros. Now that combination might make him a dinosaur.

Lewis goes on to say that the hits James Harrison and Brandon Meriweather were fined for were “totally” legal and the fact that the two men were fined is “embarrassing.”

Read the rest here.

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