Late For Work 12/24: Reilly: I Had Ray Lewis All Wrong

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Reilly: I Had Ray Lewis All Wrong**

For years,* *Rick Reilly threw Ray Lewis under the bus.

Then the ESPN columnist found out he would be stuck on a bus with Lewis when the retired Ravens linebacker was hired to join the Monday Night Countdown crew.

Reilly was nervous. He never liked Lewis, and he knew there was a good chance Lewis read some of his critical remarks throughout Lewis' 17-year NFL career.

"Is there anybody in America you'd want mad at you less than Ray Lewis?" Reilly asked.

Reilly thought the experience with Lewis would be "hell on wheels." Not just because he would have to face the man he'd criticized for years, but because he admittedly misjudged the person Lewis really is.

His words are potent:

"The times I loathe myself the most are when I'm so cocksure of something, so bulletproof screwed-down certain, that I don't make room for the possibility that I might not be just wrong, I might be loud wrong.

"Take, for instance, Ray Lewis.

"Despised him. Didn't trust him. Didn't matter that I didn't know him.

"Didn't care that he was a 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker. Never liked the dance. Never liked all of the God speeches. Remember what he said after last season's Super Bowl win? 'When God is for you, who can be against you?' What did the 49ers do to piss off God? Never saw any reason a man needed black paint all over his face to play football. It's not faceblack. It's eyeblack. …

"Turns out I was a fool. Ray Lewis is not the man I thought he was. He is friendly, open and honest. He wants to laugh – at himself first and second, and maybe you third. If he's read the things I've written about him, he's not letting on."

Reilly and Lewis spend 10 hours together each Monday getting ready for Monday Night Football. After doing so for nearly half a year, Reilly has discovered the real Ray Lewis.

Reilly learned that Lewis is a man who constantly talks with his kids, a man who studies photography, a man who goes out of his way to meet soldiers to thank them for their service, a man who can't help but try to fix things, a man who goes out of his way to help co-workers, a man with so much passion for the game of football that he yells at the TV even when it's not the Ravens playing. And despite his love for the game, he never loses sight of the bigger picture and what's really important in life.

There's more to Lewis that Reilly discovered, and it's worth the time to click through and give his entire column a read.

For now, here's Reilly's conclusion about the man he misjudged for years:

"I'm about as different from Ray Lewis as a man can get. He ascribes everything that happens to God's will. I ascribe none of it. He rarely drinks. I keep entire breweries in the black. He's a player at heart and I'm a writer at heart and almost never do the twain mix. As he says, 'I always thought writers were nothin' but dangerous.' And yet, somehow, we've become close. We laugh at our failures. Knuckle our successes. Help each other through. He is a good man. And maybe I'm not the man I thought I was for judging him.

"There's no reason you should believe any of this, of course. No company is going to let you rip a fellow employee. So I guess I'm only writing it as a memo to myself:

"Throwing a person under the bus is not nearly as fun as becoming friends ON one."

Ravens Lacked 'Juice' vs. Patriots

Maybe you were like The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel, who was "stunned" with how the Ravens performed in their 41-7 blowout loss to the Patriots.

"Given how the Ravens had risen to every challenge over the past month while winning four straight games in four totally different ways, I have to say that I'm stunned with how they performed," Vensel wrote. "They picked the worst possible time to play their worst game – at least the first half in Denver was competitive – and are now in trouble heading into the season finale."

With such a surprising effort, media asked Head Coach John Harbaugh if coming off a short week with a tough Monday night road win in Detroit may have hampered his team.

Harbaugh said it was a "legitimate factor."

"It did, we felt it," Harbaugh said. "We fought through it all week as best we could. Our guys were excited to play, and I thought the effort was there. They fought like crazy, but we just didn't have enough juice to pull it off. It's a legitimate factor. Everybody has scheduling issues that they've got to deal with in the NFL, and that was one of ours."

Talking with fans, Vensel indicated Harbaugh's simple answer to a question shouldn't be viewed as an excuse.

"I see some of you are criticizing John Harbaugh for the MNF football thing. He was asked specifically if it had an impact and he said yes," Vensel tweeted.

Best To Worst PFF Grades

Pro Football Focus' grades are in, and the best to worst marks for both the offense and defense are in the table below.

After a quiet six-game stretch without a sack, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs took down quarterback Tom Brady and earned the Ravens' highest grade and personal season best of 3.7.

OFFENSEDEFENSE
NameSnap CountRatingNameSnap CountRating
Marshal Yanda771.4Terrell Suggs553.7
Dennis Pitta310.9DeAngelo Tyson192.8
Torrey Smith700.6Daryl Smith662.3
Eugene Monroe770.5Elvis Dumervil282.3
Marlon Brown690.5Arthur Jones401.7
Jah Reid20.5Courtney Upshaw510.7
Tandon Doss100.3Arthur Brown120.1
Ray Rice340.2Pernell McPhee160.0
Ricky Wagner40.0Haloti Ngata55-0.5
Vonta Leach50.0Terrence Cody21-0.5
Bernard Scott90.0Josh Bynes2-0.5
Gino Gradkowski77-0.1Chris Canty36-0.9
Bernard Pierce34-0.2Lardarius Webb68-0.9
Ed Dickson47-0.6Jimmy Smith69-0.9
Tyrod Taylor8-0.6Matt Elam69-1.1
Jacoby Jones70-1.5Corey Graham25-1.5
A.Q. Shipley77-1.6James Ihedigbo69-2.5
Michael Oher77-2.0Jameel McClain58-3.2
Joe Flacco66-2.3

Let's Go J-E-T-S, Jets!

The Jets may give the Ravens the best shot at making the playoffs.

To advance, one of the more likely scenarios has the Ravens winning PLUS either the Dolphins or Chargers losing.

The chances of the Chargers losing look slim because their opponent, the Chiefs, may rest their starters because they are already locked into the No. 5 seed.

That leaves the Dolphins vs. the Jets.

"I'm starting it up for #Ravens fans. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, JETS!" tweeted our own Ryan Mink.

The Jets are mathematically out of the equation to make the postseason, but ole' Rex Ryan is using another tactic to motivate his team.

He reportedly told his players in a team meeting Saturday that he heard he was going to be fired, which may have inspired them to play for a win.

"[A]ccording to a team source, Ryan was downright angry during a team meeting Saturday night because he had heard rumors the Jets may have already reached out to potential candidates to replace him," wrote New York Dailey News' Seth Walder. "In that meeting, the source said Ryan was riled up, and discussed his job status with the team. The source said part of bringing up his tenuous status was meant to be motivational."

If the reports are true, the tactic seemed to work as the Jets beat the Browns Sunday, 24-13.

Can the Jets muster another win in Miami for their head coach?

Time will tell.

In the meantime, below is a video of Jamie Dukes and Solomon Wilcots of the NFL Network debating which team will lock up the last AFC playoff seed.

Quick Hits

  • @raylewis: To know another person you must truly know yourself 1st. Thanks @ReillyRick for your candid thoughts in your column. See you soon my friend. [Twitter]
  • "Torrey Smith's late-season swoon continued against the Patriots," wrote Vensel. "He bobbled a long pass from Flacco on the first drive of the game, leaving a big play on the field, and did not have a catch until the third quarter. He finished with three catches for a team-high 69 yards, much of them coming when he caught a pass and stiff-armed Patriots safety Steve Gregory while running down the right sideline. It was a decent game statistically and I'm sure Flacco's play was a factor, but the Ravens need more from the third-year speedster. The Ravens have been getting a lot of single-high looks in recent weeks with defenses playing Cover 1 or Cover 3 zones, but Smith and his fellow wideouts have not exploited it often as they should." [The Baltimore Sun]
  • The Ravens' red-zone defense and run defense are regressing.  The unit was ranked No. 1 in red-zone defense two games ago, but has dropped to No. 7 after give up six touchdowns from inside the 20 the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the run defense has given up a touchdown in each of the last four games after giving up the fewest in the NFL through the first 11. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Clifton Brown notes that it is "odd" that all of Justin Tucker's missed field goals this year have come at home.  He's 20 for 20 on the road. "Maybe it's a good thing for the Ravens that they are headed to Cincinnati. At least it could be good for Tucker," Brown wrote. [CSNBaltimore.com]
  • @AKinkhabwala [NFL Network]: John Harbaugh asked about Jimmy Smith penalty: "How am I going to answer that and not have the league calling me every 10 minutes?" [Twitter]
  • @willbrinson [CBSSports.com]: Russell Wilson loses his first home game since October 2010. Last QB to beat him? Tyrod Taylor! [Twitter]
  • @RapSheet [NFL Network]: #WTFax seems like ages ago. It still comes back to haunt the #Broncos. If they had Elvis Dumervil, losing Von Miller [torn ACL] wouldn't hurt so bad. … If #Broncos don't lose Elvis Dumervil to #WTFax, they likely don't sign Shaun Phillips, who has 10 sacks. Dumervil has 9.5. A wash? [Twitter]
  • @jamisonhensley: For those wondering, #Ravens would have the No. 18 overall pick in the draft if season ended today. [Twitter]
  • @ESPNNFL: Congrats to 49ers Anquan Boldin on surpassing 1,000 receiving yards this season. His first season over 1,000 since 2009 w/AZ [Twitter]
  • @TorreySmithWR: Ugly Sweater @LibraLadii_ [Twitter]
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