HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – When you consider the Baltimore Ravens is still playing at a high enough level that the unit ranked third overall this regular-season, it’s hard to argue with the performance of any of the individuals.
But that is exactly what Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston last week, saying future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed’s skills have diminished to the point they are hurting the defense. The production has certainly dipped in recent years for both Lewis, once the most feared linebacker in the game, and Reed, but Lewis seems to take exception to any discussion his skills have diminished over 16 years.
Lewis and the Ravens are set to host the Texans during an AFC Divisional Playoff game Sunday in Baltimore.
“Do you know how long I have listened to people say what I can’t do?” Lewis said with a laugh when asked about Preston’s column during Wednesday’s teleconference with Houston media members. “You don’t get into it. I don’t disrespect nobody. I don’t disrespect nobody’s craft, but you are talking about somebody who has never played on this level.
“It’s impossible to get into that type of jibber-jabber. The sad thing is you make comments like that and this is the same team that won a Super Bowl, this is the same team that we are back in the playoffs, this is the same team that we are sitting here with the No.3 defense in football. This is the same team with the same players. So when you make comments like that you have to be very careful. I always tell people even a fool is counted wise until he opens his mouth.”
In making the argument that it’s time for the Ravens to look to replace Reed and Lewis, Preston admitted that both are still playing well. The problem is they aren’t playing at the level they both did in their primes.
Reed, a 10-year veteran, has recorded 52 tackles, a sack, one forced fumble and three interceptions. His three picks are the fewest in any season he played in 16 games during his career.
Lewis was selected to the Pro Bowl this season despite missing time with turf toe and also seeing his production drop. His selection drew the ire of many in Houston and around the country after Texans linebacker Brian Cushing had a much more productive season but was left off of the AFC Pro Bowl team.
“You here so many people speak about what they think they know but they don’t have a clue,” Lewis continued about the diminished skills talk. “They really don’t have clue. So I don’t even get into it, man.
“It’s a free world and it’s his opinion and it’s whatever he wants to say. It won’t stop what we are doing around here and it definitely won’t stop what I’ve done or what Ed has done in his career. It won’t stop none of that because nobody has done none of this for us. We’ve done our own work and our resume speaks for itself.”
That it certainly does. The Ravens have pretty much set the standard for outstanding defensive play for much of Lewis’ decorated career.
It was the Ravens outstanding defense and ball control offense that delivered them the Super Bowl XXXV in 2000. And it is that same formula again with running back Ray Rice leading the offense that could put the Ravens back into the Super Bowl again 12 years later.
Lewis attributes a lot of the sustained defensive success to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and the people he has brought in. But Lewis also credits the team leadership, which certainly includes himself.
“It’s a certain mentality, it’s a certain level of leaders that we’ve always had around here,” Lewis said. “Once they bring them in we do the rest. Coaches don’t have to coach all of the time. Coaches can come and enjoy being a part of a team that is ran pretty much by leaders who’ve been in the league, been to Pro Bowls and won championships. That’s the model that young kids see when they come in. They get it, they say `Okay, this is how I want to do it. This how I want to be a professional.’ That’s why I think we’ve been so successful.”