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Ray Lewis was not entertaining any discussion on 'deer-antler spray' or anything else that had wasn't about football. What he did talk about was how winning the Super Bowl would be the perfect ending he is seeking on his 17-year career.
Ray Lewis was not entertaining any discussion on 'deer-antler spray' or anything else that had wasn't about football. What he did talk about was how winning the Super Bowl would be the perfect ending he is seeking on his 17-year career.

Ray Lewis in search of his storybook ending to NFL career at Super Bowl

Ray Lewis is not shy to talk about it: He wants the storybook ending to his 17-year NFL career that winning a Super Bowl can provide.

NEW ORLEANS // Ray Lewis, the face of the Baltimore Ravens franchise, says the time has come to claim another Super Bowl title for his team and a storybook ending to a brilliant, 17-year National Football League career.

"I just think that if it is your time, it's your time," Lewis told reporters ahead of Sunday's NFL title game in New Orleans between Baltimore and the San Francisco 49ers. "For us to be here today, it's bottom line, our time."

Lewis has been one of the dominant linebackers of his era since joining the Ravens in their inaugural season after being selected with the 18th pick of the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami.

Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl selection, seven-time first team All-Pro, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of Baltimore's Super Bowl win in 2001, has been the unquestioned leader of the team even while dealing with controversies.

The deeply religious Lewis has led with a fervour and showed his fire when asked again to react to a report he had dismissed the day before claiming he had taken a banned substance this season - the deer-antler spray that golf's Vijay Singh admitted to taking - to aid his recovery from injury.

After firmly denying the allegation, he said the matter would have no affect on his teammates.

"It's a joke, if you know me. 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 disturb what's inside," Lewis told.

"That is the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That is what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you are trying to do."

Lewis has dealt with other controversies, most notably when he was linked to a double murder after a scuffle outside an Atlanta nightclub in the early morning hours of the 2000 Super Bowl, which he attended as a spectator.

The linebacker was charged in the murder but later plea bargained to a misdemeanour obstruction of justice charge. He was also fined US$250,000 (Dh918,300) by the NFL for his involvement.

"I live with it every day of my life and I would rather not talk about it," Lewis said at the Media Day that kicked off the Super Bowl week.

Lewis began to rehabilitate his image immediately following the Atlanta incident as he led the Ravens defence in a record-setting season that carried them to a one-sided Super Bowl triumph over the New York Giants.

Brian Billick, the coach of that Ravens team and now an analyst for the NFL Network, said Lewis had become an inspirational figure both on and off the field.

"People keep saying, is he the greatest linebacker of all-time?" Billick said. "I'm not into labels, but let's talk about the greatest defensive players of all-time. He's in the discussion."

Billick said the redemptive nature of Lewis's story made his NFL journey even more special.

"It's a great story, a great American story, and it's a great way for him to go out," he said of Lewis's return to the Super Bowl. "For him to be able to finish his career the way he has, it's a fairy tale ending."

Billick said that from his earliest days in the league, the fiery Lewis revealed his leadership skills.

"You could see right away the passion, the intensity and the ability," the former coach said.

"When you see a Shannon Sharpe, a Rod Woodson, a Trent Dilfer, a Tony Siragusa, who had been in that league a while, and who normally would be those leaders ... capitulate the leadership to a young Ray Lewis, that told me there's something special about this guy."

Off the field, Lewis founded the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation to help underprivileged youth in Baltimore and underlines the importance to teammates of making a difference in people's lives.

This season, Lewis came back from a torn triceps suffered in October to join the play-off push even as he announced he would retire when the Ravens' season ended.

His fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs called Lewis's decision a turning point for Baltimore.

"We all focused ourselves and, you know, the reality set in that we're not all going to play forever," Suggs said. "We always say about [how] the window of opportunity is closing. That kind of got everybody's mind right to go on a run."

Lewis noted that the Ravens had come close in recent years, failing in two of the previous four seasons to clear the final hurdle for a return to the Super Bowl, so this trip was especially sweet.

"When the clock hits triple zeros, no matter what happens, that will be my last ride," Lewis said.

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