Ravens general manager **Ozzie Newsome** said Thursday that Ray Lewis!(/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis")' character and leadership in the locker room were big reasons why he received a new contract.
But that's not why team owner **Steve Bisciotti** was willing to part with his money.
Even though it's rare for a 33-year-old linebacker to receive what has been reported by media outlets as a seven-year contract, Bisciotti thinks Lewis can continue to be a dominant player on the field.
Never mind the 10 Pro Bowls, the two NFL Defensive Most Valuable Player awards, the Super Bowl MVP honor, or even Lewis' 1,451 tackles over 12 years.
Bisciotti is looking to the future.
"We're not paying him for what he did in the past; we're not paying him for his leadership," Bisciotti said during a press conference with Lewis, Newsome and head coach **John Harbaugh**. "We're paying him because he's a great ball player, and he influences people on the field.
"That's the value."
Season after season, Lewis has performed at the highest level, and he's coming off one of the best campaigns of his career.
After upping his weight from around 245 pounds to 260, the star linebacker started all 16 games for Baltimore's AFC Championship-contending squad. He led the Ravens' second-ranked defense in the NFL with 160 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Lewis also became only the third player in league history to total more than 30 career sacks (he owns 33.5) and 25 interceptions (28).
Lewis, who turns 34 in May, doesn't see an end on the horizon, either.
"I think once you start thinking about that you're thinking about retirement," he said with a laugh.* "*I haven't thought about that yet, not even close to it."
Newsome's point, however, still rings true.
Retaining Lewis is key for new defensive coordinator **Greg Mattison**, who took over for Rex Ryan after Ryan left to become head coach of the New York Jets.
Lewis thinks the transition will be smooth, especially because he's played under four coordinators since the Ravens selected him in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft.
"I told him that when we first started dealing with each other that it takes a man to understand the things he is dealing with and who he is coaching," Lewis explained. "Like I told him, 'Teach me whatever you need me to know.'
"That's the mentality of everybody we have around here. So, the replacement of whoever it is, the boat doesn't stop. We keep it moving."
And his influence is undeniable. Many football plateyers - from the NFL and collegiate ranks - cite Lewis as a mentor, somewhat of a big-brother figure.
Around team headquarters, Lewis is quick to teach incoming rookies about doing things the "Ravens way."
"Keeping Ray is a plus for everybody and the whole organization," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata!(/team/roster/haloti-ngata/9225ada6-37a5-4b66-9776-1b6e4df2fb50/ "Haloti Ngata"). "Leading me as a younger guy, it feels like having an older brother protecting you. We have that relationship ever since I've known him. Ray is a leader to everybody - both offensive and defensively.
Madness of March
It's obviously March Madness around the Ravens' training facility. Thursday's press conference was scheduled for halftime of the University of Maryland's NCAA tournament game against California because Bisciotti is an avid Terrapin fan and wanted to watch the contest on TV.
That prompted Baltimore senior vice president of public and community relations **Kevin Byrne** to bring up the affiliations of each person participating in the panel.
"We have Ozzie from Alabama, but his team isn't in the tournament," Byrne joked. "I told Steve I'm glad [Maryland] has a halftime lead.
"And Ray has a guard from Baltimore [the University of Miami's Jack McClinton]."
Head coach John Harbaugh, also didn't have a representative in the field of 64. He went to the University of Miami of Ohio.
Ravens Play 60
Ravens linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo!(/team/roster/brendon-ayanbadejo/0e939635-1a76-4e0f-a8e4-525731af352f/ "Brendon Ayanbadejo") and Jameel McClain!(/team/roster/jameel-mcclain/1b9210af-8755-4fdb-886e-580e37c99afe/ "Jameel McClain"), quarterback **Troy Smith**, tackle **Jared Gaither** and wideout **Marcus Maxwell** were part of a large contingent of NFL representatives that were in Washington D.C. yesterday to promote the FIT Kids Act.
The bill would require schools, districts and states to monitor and report students' physical activity. It would also help students understand nutritional information, all in an effort to combat childhood obesity.
Ayanbadejo and McClain were joined by Washington Redskins DeAngelo Hall and Fred Smoot, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, several NFL cheerleaders, and lawmakers to hold a pep rally at the Capitol.
The players led students in several physical activities.
Lewis heaped praise on Newsome for his offseason dealings in free agency, such as adding cornerbacks **Domonique Foxworth** and **Chris Carr**, and center Matt Birk!(/team/roster/matt-birk/f7490078-5e55-4d88-adfc-334ae2919b31/ "Matt Birk"). "The only reason you strap up your chinstraps and your cleats, is to play the game to win," Lewis said. "When you see the moves, whether it's Birk or Foxworth, all of these guys that you're bringing in – that's what excites you…. Sitting back watching the screen and having conversations with certain people, my workouts started way before they should have started, just because of that type excitement." …