Ray Lewis deals with controversy at Super Bowl

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Ray Lewis deals with controversy at Super Bowl

From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Of all the topics Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis wanted to talk about at Super Bowl media day, deer-antler spray probably was not on the list.He declined to directly address in any detail Tuesday questions about a Sports Illustrated report that he sought help from a company that makes the unorthodox product to speed up his recovery from a torn right triceps. Lewis was the NFL's leading tackler in the playoffs after missing 10 regular-season games with the injury.The company, Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS), says its deer-antler substance contains a banned performance-enhancer connected to human growth hormone.The 37-year-old Lewis, who has announced he will retire after playing against the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's Super Bowl, dismissed the report as "stupidity."Sport Illustrated reported that SWATS owner Mitch Ross recorded a call with Lewis hours after the player hurt his arm in an October game against Dallas. According to the report, Lewis asked Ross to send him deer-antler spray and pills, along with other products made by the company.The magazine also said that when it spoke to Lewis for its story, he acknowledged asking Ross for "some more of the regular stuff" on the night of the injury and that he has been associated with the company "for a couple years through Hue Jackson."Jackson is a former Ravens quarterbacks coach -- and later head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Two years ago he stopped endorsing SWATS because his ties to the company violated NFL rules."That was a 2-year-old story that you want me to refresh ... so I won't even speak about it," Lewis said Tuesday. "Because I've been in this business 17 years, and nobody has ever got up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I've ever took in the NFL -- there's never been a question of if I ever even thought about using anything. So to even entertain stupidity like that. ..."The NFL didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, and NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah declined comment."The team knew about this report. Ray denies taking anything and has always passed tests," Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said.Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said he found out about the SI story during the team's bus ride to the Superdome for media day."I have not talked to Ray about that personally," Harbaugh said. "What I do know about that is Ray has worked incredibly and extremely hard to get back, so I hate to see anything diminish the work ethic that he's put in to get to where he is right now. And my understanding is Ray has passed every random, you know, substance test that he's taken throughout the course of his whole career. So there's never been a test that's shown up anything along those lines."All in all, the topic only added to what already was a week filled with plot lines connected to Lewis.There is the largely rehabilitated image of a man who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub in 2000. There is the impending retirement, a self-titled "last ride" for a player widely considered one of the top defenders in NFL history and the Super Bowl MVP in 2001.And there is his recovery from what was originally thought to be a season-ending injury."When I tore my tricep, the doctor looked at me after I went in the office and she told me that I was out for the year. And I said, Doc, are you sure?' I said, Nah.' I said, Doc, there's no way I'm going to be out for the year with just a torn tricep,' " Lewis said with a laugh Tuesday. "I said, I've been through way worse.' She was like, Ray, nobody's never come back from this.' I said, Well, nobody's ever been Ray Lewis, either.' "

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Steve Bulpett joins Mike Felger to weigh in on the NBA trade deadline and the lack of moves made by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics thus far.