Ray Lewis avoids talk of report on deer spray

201301291253464393411-p2.jpeg

Ray Lewis avoids talk of report on deer spray

NEW 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.' ``

---

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Who will emerge from Ravens' crowded stable of running backs?

ravensdraftrefframe_1.jpg

Who will emerge from Ravens' crowded stable of running backs?

In the past month, the Ravens added two more pieces to an already crowded backfield, signing veteran Trent Richardson and then drafting Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech in the fourth round. That gives the Ravens six running backs at a position in which the team usually carries only three, or rarely four. Something's got to give here.

Richardson and Dixon join Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West in a backfield competition that should be intense through OTAs and training camp. (This doesn't include fullback Kyle Juszczyk.)

And the Ravens just cut Terrence McGee, who was a long shot to make the roster after spending time on the practice squad last season. 

On the surface, Forsett, Allen and Dixon would appear to be the safest bets to make the team. Forsett is coming off a broken arm, and his cap figure of $3.7 million is higher than that of Allen, Taliaferro, Dixon and Richardson combined. Would the Ravens consider cutting Forsett, which would mean about $2.3 million in cap savings? Don't bet on it. Ozzie Newsome has praised Forsett as a mentor to younger backs, and although Forsett turns 31 in October, he hasn't had the wear and tear of other backs his age.

Allen showed enough last year after Forsett's injury to enter camp as the No. 2 back. He ranked second on the team with 137 carries for 514 yards and scored one touchdown rushing, and also had 45 catches for 353 yards and two touchdowns receiving.

Dixon, as a fourth-round pick, is safe as well. The Ravens rarely cut draft picks, and it would be a shock if they cut a fourth-rounder. They certainly want to see what they have in Dixon (5-10, 215), who totaled 87 touchdowns in his collegiate career. That, incidentally, is one shy of the NCAA FBS record held by Dixon's new teammate, former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

So with Forsett, Allen and Dixon seemingly safe -- although don't expect coach John Harbaugh to declare that --  where does that leave everyone else?

No one in this group has a better pedigree than Richardson, a former No. 3 overall pick out of Alabama. But Richardson has had a disappointing four-year pro career and was out of football last season. He has reportedly dropped weight and is motivated to play. The Ravens essentially get a low-risk, low-cost look at a player with huge upside but huge questions.

Taliaferro might have the most to prove. Like Dixon, Taliaferro was a fourth-round pick but has never been able to stay healthy. He has missed half of the Ravens 32 games over his two-year career, and very well could find himself on the outside looking in this fall, healthy or not. The odds would appear even longer for West, the Baltimore product.

Granted, a lot can happen between now and when that roster is set. Watching this backfield competition unfold should be one of the top storylines of the summer.

Ravens sign fourth-round pick RB Kenneth Dixon

ravensdraftrefframe_1.jpg

Ravens sign fourth-round pick RB Kenneth Dixon

The Ravens have signed running back Kenneth Dixon, one of their five fourth-round draft picks, CSN has confirmed.

Dixon became the second of the Ravens’ 11 draft picks to sign, joining defensive end -- linebacker Matt Judon, their fifth-round pick who signed Thursday night. Terms of Dixon’s four-year contract were not immediately known.

Dixon is part of a crowded Ravens backfield picture that also includes Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Trent Richardson, and Terrence Magee.  

However, Dixon could earn playing time immediately if his production per carry translates from college to the NFL.

The Ravens struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations and in the red zone last year, two areas were Dixon might help.

Dixon had 4,480 rushing yards and 72 rushing touchdowns during his college career at Louisiana Tech. He also caught 88 passes for 972 yards and 15 touchdowns, and some scouts rated Dixon as the best pass-catching back in the draft.

Dixon will begin trying to earn the coaching staff’s immediate confidence during the Ravens’ two-day rookie minicamp which begins Friday.

Three question to ask heading into Ravens rookie minicamp Friday

ravensdraftrefframe_1.jpg

Three question to ask heading into Ravens rookie minicamp Friday

The Ravens are holding a rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday at their practice facility in Owings Mills. Saturday’s practice is the only one open to the media, so it’s still too early to ask who looks impressive. However, here are three things Ravens fans should be asking:

1. Can the team find an undrafted rookie who ultimately makes the team?

Maybe the Ravens can get lucky and add some offensive line depth with three players expected to be at minicamp – Anthony Fabiano of Harvard, Stephane Nembot of Colorado, and Matt Skura of Duke. Pass rusher Victor Ochi of Stony Brook is another player to watch.

With 11 draft picks coming in, the odds are stacked against an undrafted rookie making the team. But you never know, especially once injuries begin. Undrafted free agents who have made past Ravens rosters include wide receiver Marlon Brown, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Bart Scott, and kicker Justin Tucker.

2. Can the Ravens get through the weekend injury free?

Injuries crushed the Ravens last season. They are hoping for much better luck in 2016, starting this weekend.

3. Who’s in great shape, and who’s not?

Being in top condition can help avoid injuries. All of these rookies have been training, but there is s a difference between a personal workout and a Ravens’ practice. Coaches will take note on who can keep pace, and who needs to get in better shape for minicamps and training camp, when the intensity will only increase.