NEW ORLEANS Smiling, even laughing, at questions about a report linking him to a company that purports to make performance-enhancers, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Wednesday he never, ever took the stuff.
Lewis described himself as agitated not angry that the story has become part of the Super Bowl-week prelude to Baltimores game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Lewis said hes certain his teammates wont be distracted by the report in Sports Illustrated. The magazine said Lewis sought help from a company that said its deer-antler spray and pills contain a banned product connected to human growth hormone. The 37-year-old Lewis is the leading tackler in the NFL postseason after returning from a torn right triceps that sidelined him for 10 games.
In a private conversation with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, and later in the public setting of a news conference, Lewis distanced himself from Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS). SI reported company 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 items made by the company.
Its so funny of a story because I never, ever took what he says or whatever I was supposed to do. And its just sad once again that someone can have this much attention on a stage this big, where the dreams are really real, Lewis said Wednesday, wearing his white No. 52 Ravens jersey, gray sweatpants and a black hat with the teams purple logo. I dont need it. My teammates dont need it. The 49ers dont need it. Nobody needs it.
The magazine reported 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.
Lewis stance Wednesday was different.
He told me theres nothing to it. ... Hes told us in the past, hes told us now, that hes never taken any of that stuff, ever. And I believe Ray. I trust Ray completely. We have a relationship. I know this man. And I know what hes all about, Harbaugh said. Its just too bad it has to be something that gets so much play.
Harbaugh didnt think his players would be bothered a bit by the subject this week, dismissively waving his left hand while saying: As a football team, its not even a factor for us.
Known for his frequent references to God and faith, 2001 Super Bowl MVP Lewis called the whole episode a joke and a trick of the devil, adding that he told teammates: Dont let people from the outside ever come and try to disturb whats inside.
Faced with a handful of questions about SWATS and on-field topics Lewis never had to deal with a single reference to a dark chapter in his life: He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub in 2000.
We all in here have a past. You know? But how many people actually dwell into it? You know? Nah, it aint about your past. Its about your future, Lewis said in response to a question about the Ravens keeping focused on Sundays game.
And for me and my teammates, I promise you, we have a strong group of men that we dont bend too much, and we keep pushing forward, he said, raising a clenched right fist. So its not a distraction at all for us.
Asked about deer-antler spray, San Franciscos tight end Vernon Davis take was: I dont think Ray would take any substance.
Carlos Rogers, a 49ers cornerback, chuckled when asked about it and what effect the headlines could have on the Ravens.
I dont think theyll get a distraction. I dont know what to make of that. I heard it was something that cant be detected. They cant test (for) it, anyway, Rogers said. Him saying that hes never failed a test, he probably hasnt failed a test for what they test for.