NEW ORLEANS — A defiant Ray Lewis again denied using any banned substances and took the offensive against the man who says that he provided the Ravens’ linebacker with products to accelerate his return from a torn triceps injury.
Lewis called Mitch Ross - a co-owner of Sports With Alternatives to Steroids who claims that his relationship with the longtime Raven dates back to 2008 - a coward and attacked his credibility. He also described the attention being paid to the situation four days before the Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII “sad” and “embarrassing.”
“The reason why I’m smiling is because it’s so funny of a story because I’ve never, ever took what he says I am supposed to do,” Lewis said at a news conference at the team’s downtown hotel. “It’s just sad once again that someone can have this much attention on a stage this big where dreams are really real. I don’t need it, my teammates don’t need it, the 49ers don’t need it. Nobody needs it because it just really shows you how people really plan things and try to attack people from the outside. It’s just foolish. It’s very foolish. The guy has no credibility. He’s been sued four or five times over the same BS. Just to entertain it, I can’t, I won’t.”
Lewis’ comments repeated what he said at Media Day on Tuesday when a Sports Illustrated report surfaced that Ross supplied the linebacker with different products after his injury, which occurred Oct. 14. One of the products was a deer antler velvet spray, which the magazine reported contains IGF-1, a substance that is banned by the NFL. Johns Hopkins professor Dr. Roberto Salvatori, however, told The Baltimore Sun that even if Lewis did use deer antler velvet spray, his body would not have absorbed IGF-1.
Ross confirmed the details Tuesday in an interview with The (Baltimore) Sun, and said that he met Lewis through his relationship with former Ravens assistant Hue Jackson.
Lewis, however, has declined to even mention Ross by name. Retiring after the Super Bowl, Lewis acknowledged that he was “agitated” though not angry that this has become a big storyline this week, but vowed to not let it become a distraction for his teammates.
“It’s a joke if you know me,” Lewis said. “I tell them all the time and this is what I try to teach them: ‘Don’t let people from the outside ever come and try to disturb what’s inside.’ That’s the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract people from everything you are trying to do. There’s no man that’s ever trained as hard as our team has trained. There’s no man that’s went through what we’ve went through.
“To give somebody credit that doesn’t deserve it, that would be a slap in the face to everything that we’ve went through. I’ve been in this game for 17-plus good years and I’ve had a heck of a relationship and too much respect for the business and my body to ever violate it like that. So to entertain foolishness like that from cowards who come from the outside and try to destroy what we’ve built, like I said, it’s sad to even entertain it on this type of stage.”
Lewis met with team officials after the story come out and told them that it was untrue. They advised him to issue a strong denial.
“I understand that it’s something that he’s never, ever been involved with,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “I think it’s kind of too bad that someone was given an opportunity to get some free publicity out there, undeserved and unearned, really for no reason. ... Ray is honest. Ray is straightforward. He’s told us in the past, he’s told us now that he’s never taken any of that stuff ever and I believe Ray and I trust Ray completely. We have a relationship. I know this man. I know what he’s all about. It’s just too bad it has to be something that gets so much play.”
Kevin Byrne, the Ravens’ senior vice president for public and community relations, said, “Sports Illustrated, that guy, that company, they won. They picked the NFL’s Media Day. They got the whole world talking. They won. That’s a shame.”
Meanwhile, several of Lewis’ longtime teammates came to his support. They also vowed that Lewis’ issues wouldn’t become a distraction as they ramp up preparations for Sunday’s game against the 49ers. The Ravens had their first practice of Super Bowl week Wednesday.
“Do we seem distracted? Come on, man. We can handle a lot,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “This team has very broad shoulders. We don’t let too many things bother us. We’re just really good at not paying attention to nonsense. We’re not distracted at all. ... Until you show some factual evidence, we don’t really care about it, man. We’re at the Super Bowl. We know what you all are trying to do. We’re just not getting into it. We’re shrugging it off. It’s all feathers in the wind. It’s petty gossip for the simple fact that we saw how hard he worked. He did it at the facility and at no time was he injected with anything.”
Lewis had surgery Oct. 17. At the time, it was believed that he’d be out for the rest of the season. However, Lewis convinced general manager Ozzie Newsome to put him on injured reserve with a designation to return, vowing to play again at some point this season. Less than three months later, Lewis returned in time to face the Indianapolis Colts in the Ravens’ Jan. 6 playoff opener. He’s made 44 tackles in three playoff games.
Safety Ed Reed has been a teammate of Lewis’ for 11 years and the two former Miami standouts used to train together. He said that he didn’t know who Ross is and noted that “I don’t associate with people like that” anyway.
“I always talk about Ray’s work ethic, what he’s achieved and what he did to get to this point,” Reed said. “I know what he goes through physically, what he puts his body through to work out. The naysayers are going to be there. C’mon, the man is out there with a brace on.”