Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'


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.

Curran: NFL embarrasses itself yet again in Josh Brown case


Curran: NFL embarrasses itself yet again in Josh Brown case

In February, the New York Times did a fawning feature on Lisa Friel, the woman hired to make sure the NFL never had an investigatory embarrassment like the one they had in the Ray Rice case.

As the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Investigations, Friel would be relentless and undaunted, stated wrote Times reporter Dan Barry, who wrote:

The only issue (she declined even to call it a frustration) is the expectation by some of instant investigative findings following an allegation. Friel said that she was no longer in law enforcement, had no subpoena power and must pursue these cases more like a reporter or private investigator.

This means asking the local police department for incident reports, transcripts of 911 calls, photographs, interviews with responding officers. This means wading through redacted documents, being rebuffed by witnesses and alleged victims, waiting for the processing of freedom-of-information requests. This means hitting walls, putting together a to-do list, then waiting for the case to be adjudicated, dismissed or closed.

Barry then cited Friel who said, “Then we’re going to circle back and go through the whole list again." 

Well, that certainly doesn’t align with what’s unfolding in the Josh Brown case.

Thursday, the league complained it hit a dead-end in its investigation into allegations of abuse by Brown. A portion of their statement:

“NFL investigators made repeated attempts — both orally and in writing — to obtain any and all evidence and relevant information in this case from the King County Sheriff’s Office. Each of those requests was denied and the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide any of the requested information, which ultimately limited our ability to fully investigate this matter. We concluded our own investigation, more than a year after the initial incident, based on the facts and evidence available to us at the time and after making exhaustive attempts to obtain information in a timely fashion. It is unfortunate that we did not have the benefit or knowledge of these materials at the time.”

Later Thursday, the NFL’s effort to get to the bottom of the Brown case – or at least get background – was lampooned by the man the league said turned them away.  King County Sheriff John Urquhart, whose office investigated accusations that Brown abused his ex-wife while a member of the Seahawks, said the investigator that contacted his office didn’t make it clear he was representing the NFL.

“Since this is a hot-button item in the NFL, since it’s the NFL, we probably would have told them orally a little bit more about what we had.” Urquhart said. “But we don’t have them calling us here. We’ve got some goofus from Woodinville named Rob Agnew asking for the case file. We have no idea who he is.”

“We would have told them… ‘Be careful, NFL, don’t rush into this. This case is blossoming way more than what happened on May 22nd of 2015. We’re getting more information, be careful,’” he said. “Again, we’re not gonna give them specifics but we certainly would have cautioned the NFL to be careful about what they were going to do.”

The league has since taken exception to Urquhart’s representation of the facts.

Do you know how the league could have avoided embarrassing itself yet again, though? By being transparent, as I first wrote back in August when Brown’s one-game suspension came down and an explanation as to why he didn’t get six games was sorely needed.

Uncomfortable as it may have been to state publicly what the investigation had concluded at that point, citing mitigating factors that led to Brown’s reduced suspension and detailing the efforts made to get to the bottom of the situation would have at least put everything on the table.

I wrote then: The NFL had two choices when it how to package Brown’s suspension. Either leave people to presume it was trying to bury an infraction and save face for the beloved owner or a precious New York city franchise. Or demonstrate that there really was a new way of doing business by being painfully transparent. 

It chose the former. And they now deal with the fallout of mistrust. Again. Still.

And today, it’s miles worse. 

Belichick audibles: Extends press conference, references Russell, Gehrig, Jagger


Belichick audibles: Extends press conference, references Russell, Gehrig, Jagger

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick held a press conference that lasted just under 30 minutes on Friday morning, touching on topics ranging from Malcolm Butler's growth, to lessons learned from Chuck Noll, to how Jack Lambert owes his career, in part, to the Rolling Stones. 

The Patriots coach is not generally thought of as someone who is expansive in press conference settings, but there are days, particularly on Fridays when most of the week's game-planning work is done, when he can get rolling at the microphone. He actually had a chance to shut down his scheduled 15-minute back-and-forth session with reporters about 20 minutes in. 

"I'll take a couple more if you want," Belichick said after speaking at length about Noll and the history of the Steelers. "I had a couple of long answers in there. That's usually a problem with me. Just going on and on."

He went on to answer a question about Duron Harmon, who he labeled a "silent leader," recalling a lesson he learned from Celtics legend Bill Russell, who came to speak to the team in 2002 and who Belichick saw during last season's Celtics playoff run. 

"Bill Russell taught me this," Belichick said. "In a way, a silent leader in some respects is more powerful than a vocal leader because you hear the v guy, you see him, you're aware of it, but then you have guys who have quiet leadership that in a way is more powerful because it's not quite out there as much, but it's that quiet push that sometimes can maybe have a little more impetus. I kind of put Duron in that category."

Then Belichick moved on to a query about rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts, who didn't play much as a junior at the University of Houston but became one of the best tacklers in the country as a senior. Is it difficult to scout players with just one real year of production?

"That's a tough one because you're like, 'If this guy's so good, then why did he not play? Why wasn't he out there?' [Rob] Gronkowski same thing," Belichick said. "[Rob] Ninkovich same thing. One year of production . . . Elandon, kind of the same thing. Got into the starting lineup, played and was very productive. 

"That's a great question. Is that production circumstantial? Is this guy real? Is this guy really on the way up or was that the peak and then he's going to come back down? 

"I guess the one that sticks out the most to me would be coach [Nick] Saban's story about [Jack] Lambert, when he was at Kent State, speaking of the Steelers. Lambert couldn't get on the field. Was a backup linebacker. Didn't play. Kid in front of him was really their leader, he was kind of the heart and soul of the Kent State defense . . . Through a series of circumstances, that's another story so we'll skip all that, but the kid dropped out of school, worked for Mick Jagger as a security guy, went on tour with the Stones and Lambert became the starting middle linebacker. He probably never would've played had that not happened. And you have a Hall of Fame linebacker.

"When some players have the opportunity and they get in there, the Tom Brady's of the world, or whoever, you can't get them out of there. I mean, Lou Gehrig." 

Soon thereafter, the questions ceased, but before leaving the media work room at Gillette Stadium, Belichick acknowledged his longer-than-usual run at the podium. 

"Extending the play," he said. "Little scramble."