Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
Q: How different is your defense from the first time you played the Patriots?
RL:: Well, I think we're much different. I think any and every team is kind of different as the season goes on ... [inaudible] ... I think we just kind of, in the end of the year, you're always trying to put things together.
Q: What had the transition been from Rex Ryan's defense to Greg Mattison's defense? How different is it.
RL:: Like I've said, I've kind of been answering this question all year, they're the same philosophies. Coach Mattison, of course, was under Rex [Ryan]. Rex was under Marvin [Lewis], and then of course Coach Mattison came up under Rex. It's the same concepts and things like that. Of course, it just depends how Coach Mattison likes to call his game plan and how Rex called his game plan. It's going be a little bit different by the way they structure what they want to do, but the bottom line is we still have our same defensive pack.
Q: How important is Haloti Ngata is to what you do on defense?
RL:: I just think from day one, from the day he walked in here, you look at a lot of potential people who play that position, but when you can rush the passer, and you can play the run, and you have the feet, and just have the heart to play the game the way he plays it. He is the key to our defense. He's the one that starts everything up front and when he's rolling everybody just kind of falls behind him, since day one that he's been here.
Q: Are you forced to take on more blockers when he's not in the lineup?
RL:: I don't think I'm ever forced to take on more of anything. I just think it's scheme and whatever it is, whether he's in there or not. Even if he's in there sometimes, if somebody does get up to me, then I have to understand that he's making the play in the backfield. It runs hand in hand. The defensive line is just like the offensive line. The offensive line, they protect their running backs. The defensive line protects their linebackers. I think our defensive line has done a great job for years, even before [Ngata] got here and definitely now that he's here.
Q: You've lost a lot of close games this year and even going back a couple of years to when you had the chance to give the Patriots their first loss of the season. How aggravating are those close losses and what can you take from them?
RL:: I think they were aggravating when they were happening. Yeah, they're always aggravating when they're happening because whether it's the Colts, whether it's a catch, whether it's a field goal, whatever it is. It's not aggravating now, it's more of a calmness, knowing that no matter what we go into, we have a real chance to win the football game and we have an opportunity to be in every game that's close. We've played the Patriots. We've played the Colts. We've played the Vikings. Everyone was a close game, so for us understanding that we had to come back and correct the small things because it's the small things that would make us win those close games.
Q: You talked about being close. And your team throughout this decade, with the success that you've had and the players that you've had, has really been brilliant. But it's also probably closer to the end for some of those players like yourself and Ed Reed than it is the beginning. How urgent is it for you to close the decade the way you started it?
RL:: I don't know. I don't know. I totally disagree with you on that. I think it's one simple thing - winning means a lot, the numbers don't. We're still the No. 2 or No. 3 defense in the league, no matter how we started. You look around the league and I hear you guys talk about, 'You know, you don't have a lot of time left.' Hey, Brett Favre is probably playing better than any rookie quarterback or any max-year quarterback who's signed for all of his money. Charles Woodson is probably playing the best football played out of every cornerback in the National Football League. You look at all of these old veterans who are the playing the game the way the game is played. I always tell people that you can talk about time winding down, but if you look at championships and you look at the most consistent people, it follows wisdom. You look back, you look at the Brian Dawkins, probably one of the best safeties in the game at 35, 36 years old. It doesn't have anything to do with winding down. Rod Woodson was 36 when he was playing his best football... you realize you only get better as you get older - barring injury, injury is one thing. But that window only closes when you say that you're done. If something happens tragically that slows you down, that's something different. Over the years, I've been watching and studying football, the people who are having the most success are the ones that have been in the league a long time and have been very consistent.
Q: Junior Seau would probably be another example of that, too, for the Patriots ...
RL:: Exactly, exactly. Junior is another example of that. If you grab all the guys around the league that have had the most success - take even a Peyton Manning over these young quarterbacks and all of these other young people coming in, he's still the wise one. He's still the one that has the most success. And as you go down the line and you rate each player, per position, based on the age and based on what they do and how they do it, you will come back every time and say, give me an older veteran player because I know what it is he is going to give me. That's something I have kept in contact with, just how many old guys who are really seasoned veterans just loving the game. Like I said, Charles Woodson to me is playing the best football a cornerback has played in a long time. I just think a lot of that is misconstrued.
Q: The Ravens have had one Super Bowl appearance in this decade and went to the AFC Championship game last year, how urgent is it for guys like you to get there and to really culminate the great decade? How important is this playoff run?
RL:: I think we just have to-and this is something that we talk about-enjoy the ride; it's just football. It doesn't change, it's just football. Nobody is asking us to go build a rocket or go fly to the moon, no; we are just going out there to play football. Football doesn't change and that is the beauty of the way us guys understand it. We went to the AFC Championships last year and we lost it. But guess what? We are back in it again for another opportunity to go back and all you can ask for is an opportunity, and that what we want, just an opportunity. Bottom line is if you can get that opportunity, grab the moment man, don't let everybody push you away with 'There's so much pressure. What if this, what if that?' Forget about the what ifs and just go have fun and play football and that's what we're focusing on and wherever we end up, that's where we end up.
Q: You had some comments about the officiating after the last Patriots game, I am wondering if you got any feedback about that or have you seen the officiating improve on the topics you discussed?
RL:: Not really, I am so focused on trying to keep my team focused and trying to get the Patriots. I can't go dwell back on into that. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If they are going to throw a flag, they are going to throw a flag. You are pissed off at the moment because of the way I approach the game and play the game, that is one thing, but when you talk about reliving it and bringing it back up, that is too much for me right now.
Q: When you hear about how banged up Tom [Brady] may or may not be, as an aggressive defense, how much do you smell blood in the water?
RL:: I don't think you do... that's the biggest set up ever. You look at all the great ones, go back through the years, and every time you say they are hurt they come out and have the best games. So, forget all that, who's hurt or who is not. If you have your uniform on, we understand that you're playing football. You are playing just like who you are. So we don't get caught up into that, 'oh, Tom has this, let's try to do this, let's try to do that,' as soon as you try to do that and leave people man on man then he hurts you and then he's so heroic because he's done it with three broken ribs and a finger. Forget all of that. Bottom line is if he suits up, he's ready to play, so let's play.
Q: Wes Welker is definitely out of the game. As you look at film, what do you see as the impact of that?
RL:: They have another young guy, #11 [Julian Edelman], who comes in and does a great job. I don't think he has to be Wes Welker. Wes Welker is his own personality, his own man who does a lot of things. Tom Brady and Wes Welker have great chemistry together. At the same time, you see this young kid, he comes in and he has kind of the same chemistry [with Brady] as Wes Welker has, so we just have to understand to come and play the New England Patriots in totality. Yeah, they did lose a big key to their offense, but at the same time Belichick and those guys do a great job of letting people fill in.
Q: When you watch the Pats on film, what do you see from your former teammate Adalius Thomas, and do you think he's changed as a player since he was with you in Baltimore?
RL:: I don't know. I don't know the last time I've ever really just watched another defense, even when I'm watching film. I don't watch other defenses because it creates bad technique. It just does. I haven't watched [Adalius Thomas] in years as far a sitting down and actually studying his game. I wouldn't be able to tell you that.
Q: Can you relate to some of his frustration? This year has been a tough one for him.
RL:: I think you just have to keep playing. I don't want to speak on it too much because I don't know what the frustration is, if it's between him and the coaches, him and the schemes, I don't know. But no matter what it is, I'm gonna say it again, football never changes. I've come from kind of like the old school, and the old school was that any coach can deal with you as long as you're going full speed. If you're going full speed, coach can deal with you. So no matter what you're going through, just enjoy the game and go at the game full speed and let everything else take care of itself.
Q: Did you and Adalius ever talk after the whole thing that happened a couple of years ago?
Q: So you guys are still in contact?
RL:: No. I'm not in contact with that many people outside of true mentoring. If somebody calls me to want to talk about something, yeah... [Adalius and I] got our dogs from the same people. He introduced me to the people I got my dogs through. The relationship and the friendship we'll always have, bottom line, it's just we're not teammates any more.
Q: How have you seen the Patriots ground game evolve since you saw them the first time?
RL:: I think in the maturity of still coming back to really get the guys back playing the football they've always played. This is a first class program. This is people who have won three championships. I think the things that I have seen are that they've gotten back to doing what they're doing. You lose a Wes [Welker], and of course that kills your morale for a minute. They were going through the things with Randy [Moss], and then Tom [Brady] and Randy got back on track. So I think they just got back on track with doing what they normally do.
Q: What were you guys doing well against them when you were holding them down in the rushing game the first time you saw them?
RL:: I just think we have a great front seven and we play the run very well. But we have to understand that they scheme us in various ways just like we're going to be scheming them. I think it's just going to come down to, once again, like it always comes down to, a chess match. Leverage here, leverage there, things like that. I think in the first matchup, they were some good plays we made, but then again there are some plays that they even scored on one run, so there are some plays they bounced out. We have to do a better job of being more consistent.
Q: There was so much emotion in that game in 2007. Is some of that still a part of this rivalry and do you still draw on that for this game?
RL:: No. Not at all. If that is part of the rivalry, then you've forgot why you're playing the game. This game is next week, next week, next week. Right now it's 0-0. That game don't matter, this past game don't matter, the score don't matter. None of that matters. The bottom line is who is the better team on this Sunday that's coming up.