Lewis credits revamped workout schedule with turnaround

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Lewis should be past his prime. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker has played 11 years in the NFL, and last month he celebrated his 32nd birthday.

Instead, Lewis has seemingly found a way to defy the aging process. He showed up at minicamp Tuesday looking as trim as he was during his rookie season in 1996.

"It's incredible, you know. Some people say you go in reverse once you hit the 30 mark, but I think I'm going the other way," he said.

Lewis didn't drop pounds. But he's much leaner than he was a year ago, thanks to a revamped workout schedule in which he did most of his exercising at night and added kickboxing, wrestling and swimming to the mix.

"I'm sitting right now at an easy 250, 255, but my body fat is crazy right now. I'm the healthiest I've ever been," he said. "That's why I don't have no nicks, no real bruises."

Lewis spent last year's minicamp watching from the sideline while healing from offseason hamstring surgery. This week, the seven-time Pro Bowler is in the center of the fearsome Baltimore defense, playing middle linebacker with the same ferocity he displayed in 2000, when he led the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

"Ray is still the leader, still the guy everyone looks to get us going, still the focal point of the defense," safety Ed Reed said.

But Lewis sure looks different. Over the past few months, he has been working out in his homes in Florida and suburban Baltimore and while vacationing overseas. He's always exercised hard during the offseason, but these days the sessions are taking place after the sun goes down instead of before dawn.

"Most of the time I used to get up at 6 in the morning, but now I've moved my training back to the evenings," he said. "I started averaging 10 hours of sleep a night, and some nights I was getting like 12 to 14 hours."

The results have been profound.

"Rest is probably the No. 1 thing. It's really paid off because right now I'm sitting at a place that I don't think I've ever been in my career," he said. "Where I am right now, it's scary. I will say that, because now I can see that my best football is definitely ahead of me."

Not that Lewis had anything to be embarrassed about last year, when he led the Ravens with 164 tackles and intercepted two passes. Baltimore ranked No. 1 in the league in total defense for the first time in franchise history.

The Ravens went 13-3 but lost to Indianapolis in the second round of the playoffs. The site of the next Super Bowl is Arizona, and Lewis fully intends to be there wearing a Ravens uniform and playing for a second championship ring.

That, more than anything, is why the two-time NFL defensive player of the year changed his workout regimen.

"It doesn't have anything to do with last year, it has to do with this year," he said. "The bottom line for me is, at the end of the [season] I need to be in Arizona. That's my greatest motivation. Last year left a bitter taste. I'm not going to sit here and lie to you. It did. But I'm not feeling that anymore."

The feeling Lewis has now is bliss. A year ago, he indicated that he wanted to be traded if the Ravens didn't shore up their defensive front line. Now, all he wants to do is be a standout linebacker on the only NFL team he's ever played for.

"The adjustment that's happened in my life right now, I can't explain it," he said. "My mom has been talking about it, like, every day. I'm just telling her the things that I'm doing in the weight room and the way I'm running right now, I've never felt that."