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Ray Lewis more focused on 49ers than retirement

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Ray Lewis more focused on 49ers than retirement

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) For weeks, no one could determine when The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour would draw to a close.

Since Lewis announced on Jan. 2 his ``last ride'' in the NFL would coincide with the end of the Ravens' postseason run, there was the possibility that each game would be his last.

Now, after successful stops in Denver and New England, there is no longer any doubt: Win or lose, Lewis will perform for the final time on Feb. 3, in New Orleans on the NFL's grandest stage.

It wouldn't be surprising if Lewis approached the Super Bowl with a feeling of finality, but the 37-year-old middle linebacker insisted Thursday that he's thinking only about helping the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.

``Honestly, outside of putting my head in the playbook and studying San Fran, I really haven't thought about anything else,'' Lewis said.

``It's going to be a great day, period, no matter what happens. And that's kind of the way I've approached it,'' he said. ``I haven't even said, `Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?' I really haven't. Because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize.''

Now in his 17th season, Lewis is preparing for his second Super Bowl - the first in 12 years. The last time he played for the NFL championship, Lewis earned MVP honors in Baltimore's 34-7 win over the New York Giants.

After waiting all this time to get back, Lewis has no intention of merely settling for being part of the big game.

``The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl,'' he said. ``It's great to get there, don't get me wrong, but to win it is something special.''

And then, only then, Lewis will think about what it means to walk off the football field for the final time.

``You feel that confetti drop, I'll probably reflect then, when I'm there,'' he said. ``But, it really hasn't crossed my mind like that.''

San Francisco inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who wears No. 52, has nothing but admiration for Baltimore's No. 52.

``I'm just a big fan of him, period,'' Willis said Thursday. ``Just his enthusiasm on the field, the passion he plays with. I've always been a big fan of those who play with passion, such as Ray Lewis. I know people always want to make comparisons and talk about torches and all this. At the end of the day, I always say I can only be the best player I can be.

``As a fellow linebacker, being at the Pro Bowl and being able to be coached by the same coach (Mike Nolan) at one point in time in our careers, we've become friends. Ray's one of those guys, he loves to give his wisdom and give his knowledge, and I'm the type that I love to listen - anybody who's been there, done that, especially his caliber of player, who's played a long time.''

Lewis has been with the Ravens since 1996, and it wasn't long after his arrival that he became the captain of the defense. As his career went on, he lost a step but made up for it with tireless film study and sharp instincts.

After his rookie year, the only time Lewis didn't get a Pro Bowl invitation were those seasons when he was beset by injury - 2002, 2005 and 2012.

Last year he received his 13th Pro Bowl nod despite missing four games with a foot injury. This season, after tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14, there was a strong possibility he wouldn't be back.

At first, the Ravens believed he was done for the year. But Lewis vowed to return, and his teammates were determined to make it happen.

``We knew we wanted to make the playoffs in order for Ray to have a chance to come back,'' safety Ed Reed said. ``He's that engine, that motor that's going to go all the time. He understands what the offense is trying to do to you when you're talking about the run game. He's calling out plays before they even happen. That's what you really miss when Ray is out.''

Since his return, Lewis has 44 tackles in three games. He isn't limping into retirement; rather, he's headed out with a flourish.

``He's played really well. He's played just like he's always played,'' coach John Harbaugh said.

Lewis attributes his involuntary 10-game absence as the reason behind his resurgence on the field.

``I've always said that anytime you can give your body a true rest - not just your body - anytime you can give your mind a certain rest from the game and from the every week wear and tear, when you come back you come back just as fresh as ever,'' Lewis said. ``For me right now, I feel fresh. My mind is fresh, my body is fresh and I'm just excited to really be able to end the thing up the right way.''

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Santa Clara, Calif. contributed to this report.

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With Ravens winning, T-shirt look fits John Harbaugh to a tee

With Ravens winning, T-shirt look fits John Harbaugh to a tee

The Ravens are unbeaten (3-0), including their last two victories with coach John Harbaugh wearing a gray T-shirt on the sidelines. The casual look has been good to Harbaugh, who had never worn a t-shirt on the sidelines until this season.

Does that mean Harbaugh will stick with the T-shirt look until the Ravens lose? Harbaugh said Monday that he wasn’t sure, because he was not superstitious.

“I’m superstitious about not being superstitious,” said Harbaugh. “I think it’s really important not to be superstitious.”

Harbaugh said that Ravens equipment manager Tommy Wood would have the gray T-shirt washed and ready if Harbaugh wanted to wear it for Sunday’s upcoming home game against the Raiders (2-1).

“He (Wood) said, ‘We’re saving this one,’’’ Harbaugh said. “So it will be laundered up and ready to go next week, I guess.”

If the Ravens keep winning, and the weather turns cold, Harbaugh knows wearing a T-shirt on the sidelines could be a problem. He laughed when asked if he would consider wearing a T-shirt Dec. 12 for the Ravens’ game at New England.

“I don’t like being cold,” Harbaugh said. “If that T-shirt can stretch and fit over a parka or something like that, then we might have a chance.”

MORE RAVENS: Jernigan becoming consistent force for Ravens

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Fantasy Football: Week 4 Waiver Wire

Fantasy Football: Week 4 Waiver Wire

Three weeks of the NFL Fantasy Football season are in the books. The fourth comes with a twist: Here come the bye weeks. Now, here come the free agent options.

QUARTERBACKS

— Because Aaron Rodgers is on a bye or you don't love Eli Manning at the Vikings

1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore – No amazing street options this week, but Flacco has some hope with a home matchup against a Raiders defense allowing the fourth-most points to fantasy QBs. Maybe angry Steve Smith will show and carry the day.

2. Dak Prescott, Dallas – The Cowboys face a 49ers defense that allowed six touchdown passes over the last two weeks. Trusting a rookie to produce two weeks in a row is historically dicey, but maybe Prescott, who put up good points against Chicago in Week 3, can do just that.

3. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia – The impressive rookie cannot help owners in Week 3 with Philadelphia off, but Wentz looks more and more like a viable quarterback-by-committee option.

Others: Trevor Siemian (at Bucs), Brian Hoyer (vs. Lions)

— You can drop Tyrod Taylor - Until Sammy Watkins is active AND truly healthy, the Bills don't have enough weapons to make owners feel good using Taylor.

RUNNING BACKS

— Because Eddie Lacy and the Eagles options are off and Jeremy Langford's ankle situation has you spooked and somebody grabbed Cameron Artis-Payne already

1. Jordan Howard, Chicago – Faces a Lions defense that has allowed 115.5 rush yards over the last two games and does with Jeremy Langford expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. Owners can spend at least 1/3 of their auction budget and more for those in RB hell. Good chance Howard, who had 92 total yards on 13 touches in Week 3, keeps the job if he produces.

2. Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore – This goes out for those seeking depth. Dixon is due back soon from a preseason injury. When he does, the rookie should move quickly into the mix and then some for a backfield not getting the job done. At all.

3. Dwayne Washington, Detroit – Chicago has allowed at least one rushing TD in every game this season. Washington received 10 carries in his expanded role last week.

Others for Week 4: Orleans Darkwa, NY Giants; Kenyan Drake, Miami; Jay Ajayi, Miami

Others for stashing purposes: Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia; Dion Lewis, New England

WIDE RECEIVERS

— Because no Jordy Nelson or Jordan Matthews this week and injuries to Sammy Watkins an Willie Snead are not cool, man

1. Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland – The new "Slash" and the Browns best weapon. Crazy to think the Redskins could consider having Josh Norman shadow shadow the QB-turned-WR around. That Pryor will be given a shot to make plays with hands, feet and arm is the real intrigue.

2. Michael Thomas, New Orleans – No Willie Snead, no problem for the Saints on Monday night. San Diego has allowed 410 yards to fantasy receivers the last two weeks.

3. Jamison Crowder, Washington – The Redskins have plenty of playmaking receivers and it's time to realize Crowder is one of them. Touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, Kirk Cousins trusts him an he leads Washington in receptions and targets.

Others: Cole Beasley, Dallas (PPR), Quincy Enuwna, NY Jets; Steve Smith, Baltimore; Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay; Chris Hogan, New England; 

TIGHT ENDS

— Because you can't trust Rob Gronkowski will really play and Zach Ertz, Jared Cook are on a bye.

1. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota – The connection with Sam Bradford looks legit. Went 7-70-1 against Carolina after finding the end zone the previous week.

2. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay – In the Bucs first game without Austin Seferian-Jenkins meant lots of work for Brate. Ten targets is something. Catching five of those throws for 46 yards and touchdown is something else.

Others: Zach Miller, Chicago; Hunter Henry, Tennessee

DEFENSES 

— Because you stream this position

Likely available options in Week 4 – Redskins (vs. Browns), Jets (vs. Seahawks)