<
>

Lewis says Tennessee treated McNair differently

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis says that Steve McNair's exit from Tennessee -- which included McNair being banned from the team's practice facility -- wouldn't have been the same if he'd been Brett Favre or Peyton Manning.

"I don't ever want to turn it into a black-white issue," Lewis told ESPN's Ed Werder in an interview scheduled to be run on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown (11 a.m. ET). "But it would really puzzle me, seriously, if anybody would ever tell Brett Favre ... if anybody would ever tell Peyton Manning not to walk into the Indianapolis facility.

"No. I can never understand that, and I never will because it's heartless," Lewis said. "It's heartless to do a man like that without an explanation."

McNair told Werder: "Everybody [has] their theory. I try not to get into that racial statement. I'm all about giving people the benefit of the doubt.

"I always say you can't mix personal feelings with business, and I always feel like if you do that's when these things like that happen. That's why it would never happen to Brett Favre or Peyton Manning and it probably would never happen to those guys, but it happened to me."

The Titans responded with a statement.

"As we said repeatedly through the difficult offseason process with Steve, we definitely could have handled the situation better, but the notion that race had something to do with it has no place in this discussion," the team wrote. "We respect Steve a great deal for what he did and meant to this franchise. I think you would be hard pressed to find a franchise in the NFL that has done more for African-American quarterbacks than this one and we hope that Steve will someday join Warren Moon in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

In February, the Titans wanted McNair to take a pay cut of more than $4 million to play his 11th season in Tennessee. McNair wanted some assurances for future years after the team opted not to exercise a $50 million option bonus, a move that will make McNair a free agent after this coming season.

In April, the Titans told McNair he wasn't allowed to work out on the property because they feared the liability of a $23.46 million salary cap hit if McNair got hurt. An arbitrator ruled in May that he should have been allowed to work out.

He was traded to the Baltimore Ravens on June 7. This season, he has completed 133 of 223 passes for 1,319 yards and seven touchdowns. The Ravens are 6-2 heading into this Sunday's game at Tennessee.