Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'

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Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'

NEW ORLEANS -- Quick inventory of Ray Lewis' week:

On Tuesday, he accused a new-age medicine man of attempting to intrude on "my speeches or my moment" at the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, he said he announced his retirement before the season ended because "I would have robbed a lot of people of those last goodbyes for me and them. That is why I did it that way.

On Sunday, he will execute his Squirrel Dance (has anyone ever noted that the only time a squirrel would dance like that is if it ate 23 Ex-Lax coated acorns?). Cameras will be trained on him. He will cry. He will wail. He will emote. He will be the antithesis of unassuming humility.

There is a consuming conceit inherent in many professional athletes. But Lewis is at the top of the list when it comes to sending off the vibe that it's his world and we are just living in it. And it is by his benevolence that we are allowed to share in the glory of Ray.

How, I asked Ray Lewis on Thursday, will he deal with life without being the center of attention.

"Easy," he laughed. "Very easy. Seriously. I live a very normal life outside of the game. My life is so normal. And it's hard at times because people want you to live off the field like you are on the field but I try to separate that. When I'm a father, I'm a father. When I'm a son, I'm a son. When I'm a person just shopping, I'm a person just shopping."

Lewis has a post-football job awaiting him at ESPN. His intelligence and passion may play well on TV. But his reliance on the same talking points -- the main one being himself and his preacherwarrior persona -- could potentially turn him into a font of nonsense we haven't seen since Emmitt Smith sat at a studio desk.

How much humility has he demonstrated in his NFL career, I asked Lewis. Between his retirement announcement and his Squirrel Dance, it's been a bit much.

"That's a totally different person you're talking about," he pointed out. "You're talking about on the field, an ultimate warrior. That's what I do, that's what I do. On the field ain't about humility. I don't get paid to be humble on the field. I get paid to hit people in the mouth. And that takes on its own attitude in itself.

"Off the field is what people don't see," he added. "And that's with all athletes. They make you these gladiators because they only see you on game days. But off the field you will find some of the most genuine people ever in life and I promise you in my heart I'm definitely one of them just because of the way I treat people and the way my mom has raised me."

I would have liked to ask Lewis more questions. I would have liked to follow on his statement that "they make you these gladiators because they only see you on game days" and found out who made who? Who built the "Ray Lewis Football Gladiator" brand and has fed, watered and fertilized it for more than a decade while adeptly re-directing any questions that threaten the brand.

I would have liked to ask him if he understands that much of the football-viewing America considers him a hypocrite even as it respects his ability.

I would have loved to see if he understands why a very funny "Haters Guide to Ray Lewis" on Deadspin resonates so strongly with a swath of football fans that would like him to just follow the Favre route into post-football obscurity.

But I couldn't. Eyes were rolling among my media brethren. Ray's attention was waning. And people needed to know how Ray Lewis has been a mentor to his teammates. Nobody's ever heard that line of questioning.

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.

"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."

Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.

"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.

What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."

As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.

 

Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

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Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed backup linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 

"Jonathan is a very dependable player," Bill Belichick said on a conference call Saturday. "He is able to do a lot of different roles for us. He can play inside, outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball defensively. He has been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size, a four-phase special teams player.

"He is one of our overall top workers in terms of the offseason program, preparation, training. He always does things right. He works hard, doesn't really say a lot, but is very dependable and consistent. I think everybody in the organization looks up to him."

 

49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

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49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In a statement released Saturday, the NFL said players "are encouraged but not required to" stand for the anthem.

More here from Mike Florio of NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk on Kaepernick and Florio on the NFL's statement in response.