NEW ORLEANS -- Another Super Bowl, another controversy for Ray Lewis.
In 2000, the media swarmed around the Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker to repeatedly ask about involvement in a double-murder case from the year before. On Tuesday's media day, Lewis was once again the center of attention after a report surfaced that he was given deer antler extract, which contains a banned substance, to help heal his torn triceps.
Lewis denied using the spray during his recovery -- which would be a violation of the NFL's steroids policy -- and coach John Harbaugh said the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year never failed a drug test. This report has no bearing on the Super Bowl because it would be impossible to get through the appeal process in less than a week. But there's no timetable when it comes to how it will affect a legacy, and Lewis knows that better than anyone.
He will go down as one of the best linebackers in NFL history but ... he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a double murder 13 years ago. He will be remembered as the face of the Ravens franchise but ... there are now questions about whether he cheated in what has been a remarkable recovery. Throughout his career, Lewis has owned the locker room and dominated on the football field. His toughest battles have always come in the court of public opinion.
"Two years ago, it was the same report. I wouldn't give that report or him any of my press. He's not worthy of that. Next question," Lewis said.
This was supposed to be the Super send-off for Lewis. Coming back after missing 10 weeks with a torn triceps, Lewis became the emotional rallying point after he announced that he would retire at the end of the season. He mentioned several times how he couldn't have written a better script to top off one of the most decorated careers in football history. Then came the unexpected twist Tuesday, when the Sports Illustrated report broke just hours before media day.
For the rest of the week, you'll hear about the doubts surrounding Lewis as much as his 13 Pro Bowls. Even though he hasn't failed a drug test, some will still have their suspicions because of Lewis' unbelievable recovery. It was presumed that Lewis would be done for the season, yet he was back on the field at the start of the playoffs.
When asked directly whether he had used the spray during his recovery this season, Lewis said, "Nah, never."
Like this latest controversy, Lewis didn't want to talk about the January 2000 stabbings in Atlanta that left two people dead. But, by Lewis announcing his retirement, his legacy has become a hot topic surrounding this Super Bowl, and the incident in Atlanta is just as much a part of that as his accomplishments on the field.
"I truly believe, if you take a 13-year break on anything, as hard as it is for them, as hard as it is about the things for you want me to speak about or you want to report about, I just don't believe, honestly, that this [is] the appropriate time for that," Lewis said. "Because the sympathy I have for that family or what me and my family have endured because of all of that, nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions. At this time, I would rather direct my questions in other places. I live with that every day. You maybe can take a break from it. I don't. I live with it every day of my life, and I'd rather not speak of that today."
In the eyes of many football fans, there has always been an asterisk by Lewis' name since the events in Atlanta and another one appeared five days before the final game of his storied career. All of a sudden, Lewis' Last Ride has become a little bumpy.