It should come as no surprise to Baltimore Raven fans or to anyone else conversant in pro football that Ray Lewis is going to say what Ray Lewis is thinking. And with the passion of a preacher-man, Lewis went off on the most controversial call of the football weekend past.
Toward the end of the 49ers-Saints game, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks put a nasty hit upon Drew Brees. The quarterback’s head snapped back and he fumbled, with the ball recovered by the 49ers’ Patrick Willis. But the penalty for a personal foul gave the ball and 15 yards to the Saints.
If you have not seen the play, here it is in slow motion. Obviously it is a borderline call. I have seen several sports shows where the two hosts argue back and forth while taking opposite views of this play that was critical to the outcome of the game.
As a first-year guy on ESPN, Lewis was in a panel discussion with Trent Dilfer, Stuart Scott, and Steve Young. And he went on a rant. Personally, I loved it – loved the passion of it! Lewis was very critical of the NFL, and by the end of his comments was waving his American Express card and offering to pay half of whatever fine lands upon Brooks.
If you didn’t hear it on a sport show, here is a transcript of the bulk of what Lewis said …
“This is the most embarrassing call in the National Football League since the tuck rule and Tom Brady. I’m serious. I’ve just never seen this type of insult to defenders. When you do your job, when you make the perfect play — if he takes the same hit — if he takes the same hit – and hits a quarterback like Peyton Manning who’s six-four, six-five, he hits him in his chest area. Drew Brees is six-foot or shorter. When you look at the hit, Ahmad Brooks took the hit and hit him exactly where he was supposed to hit him. Drew Brees’ neck slid down to that man’s arm.” …
“First of all, for that to be a flag is embarrassing. Let me tell you the second embarrassing thing. The second part that’s embarrassing about this is for Drew Brees to say, ‘I got hit so hard I knew it had to be a flag.’ This is the National Football League. I don’t understand what that means. When you get hit like that from the blind side, it’s supposed to hurt!”
“But I’ll tell you this, if they fine this kid, if they go on record and they fine this kid, Ahmad Brooks, I’ll gonna do something personally. I’m gonna pay half. … I’m gonna pay half of this kid’s fine, because of one reason — defenders have to be respected as men before anything else. … And that man laid a clean hit and that cost the San Francisco 49ers a complete football game yesterday and could have cost them in the playoffs.”
So, what to think of this? I’m going to go way out on the limb and say this: I completely understand both sides.
The effort is being made by the league to bring a measure of greater safety to a game that involves high-speed violence and collisions. I am frustrated myself at the number of devastating injuries that takes great players off the field. And there is no doubt that the NFL is going to error on the side of protection – that is the stand they have taken.
Yet at the same time, I understand the frustrations of defensive players – who have a job to do, but are being told to do it in a way that may not always be possible at NFL warp speed.
What do y’all think?