Lewis barely recognizable at Ravens camp

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Lewis barely recognizable at Ravens camp

From Comcast SportsNet

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- In preparation for his 17th NFL season, Ray Lewis decided the best way to cope with his advancing age was to reduce his waistline.

The 38-year-old linebacker began training camp with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday much lighter than his listed playing weight of 240 pounds. Lewis wouldn't reveal his exact weight, but said he's never weighed less since coming to Baltimore in 1996.

A 13-time Pro Bowl star, Lewis has built a reputation through his punishing hits on quarterbacks and running backs. Although that's always going to be his calling card, Lewis figures he can be a better LB by losing some lbs.

"The game is changing. The game isn't any more (about) 250, 260-pound fullbacks," he said. "You don't have the offenses running the ball 25, 30, 40-plus times. Passing is just happening more."

Lewis has maintained a high level of play throughout his career by adapting to his surroundings and keeping his body in excellent shape. He may be pushing 40, but he has no intention of coming off the field on a third-and-9.

"People want to find mismatches here, there. So, you just change with the game," Lewis said. "If everybody runs, who can't run? So for me, that's kind of what my thought process was coming into these next years. The lighter you get, the lighter you play, and you just feel better. You feel better because you have the wisdom to go off and do whatever you want to do. I just think playing a little lighter is a lot smarter for me."

Lewis has already played 222 NFL games, made 2,586 tackles and notched 40 sacks. There's no telling how high those numbers will get before he begins to think about retirement.

"I would be a very selfish person if I thought about that day, because until passion leaves you for the game, then that's impossible to think about," he reasoned. "To ever think about walking away from what I've been born to do in one phase of my life. I love the game too much, and I have a great connection to Baltimore, and as long as I am playing and my body feels great, then I'll keep doing it."

Lewis doesn't just play for the fun of it. He's all about winning. He already has one Super Bowl ring, and he spent the past 11 years striving to get another. His bid last season fell tantalizingly short when the Ravens lost to New England 23-20 in the AFC title game.

The narrow defeat was a crushing blow to Lewis, but he used the occasion to put on a display of leadership that resonates within the core of the team to this day.

"You're a pro, you always think about what you could have done better, how you felt, and quite frankly, that was not the best feeling," running back Ray Rice said. "But we had a great leader pull us back together, and that was No. 52. Without him in that locker room at that moment, I don't think the gelling would have come back. Ray Lewis brought us together as a team, and you'll see a team come out here with pride, ready to come out here and practice."

The Ravens have plenty of coaches but only one leader on the field: Lewis, their starting linebacker since the team arrived from Cleveland. He is the voice of experience, perhaps the one man on the roster capable of putting the proper perspective on an agonizing loss.

"There is a lot of pain in this world, real pain. People look toward us during games to be courageous in the times of loss in big defeats like that," he said. "It's OK to still be a man. It's OK to walk up and congratulate somebody else because they won. Those are the things that I think make you appreciate every moment."

Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the team's top draft pick in 2012, was a 6-year-old when Lewis made his Baltimore debut. The Lewis that Upshaw saw Thursday was a far different version than the rookie who played for Ted Marchibroda so long ago.

"It's just being blessed, that I've been able to maintain through my injuries and through the ups and downs of this game," Lewis said. "I think it's a credit to my work ethic and just everything that I've bought into over the years. And every year I'm always trying to change, always trying to come back better for my team."

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”