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December 06, 2001

Ray Lewis on trial again
By Dan Patrick

Even though he is heading into the biggest moment of his young NFL career, Ray Lewis won't enjoy much of the next two weeks.

Even though more people than ever are aware of his skill as a football player, Lewis still has to work on his reputation the next two weeks. Lewis has waited for what seemed like forever to play a football game before. But it has never been like this before. Because Ray Lewis is on trial again.

Ray Lewis
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (52), the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, has to tackle some tough questions before tackling anyone in the Super Bowl.

"What did you do when the knives came out, Ray?"

At his last trial, Lewis didn't tell us much. He pleaded to a lesser charge and took off the orange overalls. So the questions will come again. And Lewis has to know they won't be about stopping Tiki Barber this time. Ray Lewis is back in chains this week.

"When were you at your lowest, Ray?"

We may never know what happened in Atlanta the night two people were murdered after Super Bowl XXXIV. Those silly Roman numerals look particularly bad in a sentence with the word "murdered" in it. No one knows that more than the NFL. Ray Lewis' murder trial ruined the afterglow of the league's big party last year -- and while no one will admit it, the NFL suits have to wish Ray Lewis was a Bengal right now.

"Are you in touch with anyone from jail, Ray?"

But Lewis won't talk this week about the trial. Why should he? There is nothing for him to gain by discussing it. But people still want to know what happened when the shouting started, the bodies collided and the knives flashed. So the questions will come, if not about the moments of murder then about the months of waiting in jail.

"Was it a distraction, Ray, having spent most of your offseason up on murder charges?"

Lewis will need to be as tough as he has ever been, because this trial by fire could define the rest of his career. If he makes it to Jan. 28 having respectfully avoided the only subject people really want to talk to him about, then the last of the chains may fall away. Because even people in the media eventually get the picture when you don't want to discuss something.

"Were those guys really your friends, Ray?"

His teammates will help him. Trent Dilfer will talk about returning to Tampa as the Super Bowl starting quarterback for another team. His coach, Brian Billick, will do what he has done all year for Ray Lewis. Billick will stand out front and take some hits for him. He'll talk himself hoarse trying to remind people that a damn good football game is coming up.

But watch Ray Lewis in the few opportunities that he takes to speak. When it comes to questions, Lewis will be just like his team. He'll lead the league in three and outs. But still, watch what he doesn't say and how he doesn't say it.

And then, when this latest trial is over and the game starts, watch Ray Lewis then.

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Mort notices that Ray Lewis has never once been voted Defensive Player of the Week this season.
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Mort looks at the Ray Lewis storyline that will be linked to Super Bowl XXXV.
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Mort says this will be a Super Bowl of redemption.
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