OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Lewis has made a Hall of Fame career out of stopping running backs. Entering his 17th NFL season, Lewis is looking more like a running back.
As the Ravens reported to training camp Wednesday, Lewis acknowledged that he is at his lightest weight since entering the league in 1996. A coach told him that the later you get in your career, the lighter you need to be in order to play.
Lewis took that to heart this offseason, saying he is "much lighter" than his listed playing weight of 240 pounds.
"The game is changing," Lewis said. "The game ain't no more 250, 260-pound fullback and you don't have offenses running the ball 25, 30, 40-plus times. That was my thought process was coming into this year. Playing lighter is much smarter for me."
This is rationale thinking considering the NFL has turned into a passing league, and it's hard to second-guess perhaps the greatest linebacker to ever play the game. But you have to wonder if Lewis lost too much weight this offseason.
Lewis wouldn't reveal his weight -- "I keep that to myself," he said -- but let's estimate he's around 230 pounds. He still has to fight through blockers. He still has to take on big running backs in the AFC North like the Browns' Trent Richardson (228 pounds), the Bengals' BenJarvus Green-Ellis (220 pounds) and the Steelers' Isaac Redman (230 pounds).
Baltimore has never had to worry about teams consistently running against its defense with Lewis in the middle. The Ravens have never allowed more than 3.9 yards per carry in any season. But that's been with Lewis weighing between 250 and 260 pounds.
Still, you have to respect Lewis' longevity. When he goes against Richardson, he's facing a back who was 5 years old when Lewis played his first game in the NFL.
Lewis said he never thinks about retirement and doesn't reflect on the toll in making 2,586 tackles.
"It's really about making the play, whether it's a tackle, a big hit or a sack. It's about making a play," Lewis said. "Whether you think about how you feel or not after the play, I really don't. Somebody feels it."
But inflicting those hits could be more challenging at this lower weight.