In preparing for his second, and last, Super Bowl appearance, Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis finds himself exactly where he was twelve years ago for his first Super Bowl game; facing accusations of wrong doing.
In 2000, Lewis was the subject of a criminal investigation into the deaths of two men at a nightclub in Atlanta that occurred the night of the Super Bowl. Lewis was charged with two counts of murder, but plea bargained the charges down to obstruction of justice in return for his testimony against his two companions that night, Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley.
In the Sports Illustrated article that broke this news, is the contention that in a taped telephone conversation, Lewis either sought out, or accepted from, a representative of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S) a shipment of that company's products, including a deer antler velvet extract which contained IGF-1, or -insulin-like growth factor, a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) banned by the NFL, which acts like a natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth.
The Steelers are no stranger to the torn triceps injury. In Week 1 of the 2011 season, offensive tackle Willie Colon suffered a torn triceps in the Steelers humiliating 35-7 defeat at the hands of the Ravens. Colon was placed on IR as a result of that injury.
Shortly after Lewis suffered his injury, the Ravens reported that it was a complete tear that would require surgery. The New York Times published an article on October 18 about this type of injury and what Lewis and the Ravens' fans could expect in terms of recovery time. The article cited numerous triceps injuries to NFL players, and quoted Gautam Yagnik, the chief of orthopedic surgery at West Kendall Baptist Hospital in Miami-Dade County, Fla., and a sports medicine specialist as to the surgery involved, and the typical recovery time a player could expect:
"Of the ones that were repaired, they generally missed a whole season to come back, but most were able to come back and play," Yagnik said. "It's not necessarily a career-ending injury, though."
So how was it that Lewis, a very much self-promoted man of faith and a father of six children with four different women, was able to fully recover in just three months when other players, being mere mortals, require up to a year? Did Lewis garner for himself similar favor from a higher plane during his recovery as he claims is responsible for the Ravens' recent successes?
Or did Lewis, possibly looking to leverage post-playing endorsements, adopt Calgon's famous catch phrase, "ancient Chinese secret" and partake of a supplement made from the fuzzy "velvet" found on deer antlers, a holistic form of medicine practiced by the Chinese for thousands of years?
This issue should not be construed as a "disgruntled fans' snipe hunt" looking to tear down a popular but polarizing player in his twilight. Ray Lewis is the heart and soul of the Ravens' team; he is their unanimously appointed vocal leader and chief motivator. He has become famous for his pre-game speeches and victory dances. While the caliber of his play may have been tailing off the past couple of seasons, there is no reason to doubt that without Lewis, the Ravens would be a physically and psychologically different team than the one that finds itself playing in the 2012 Super Bowl.
Given Lewis' performance the last time he ran afoul of the rules when he obstructed the criminal investigation into the deaths of two men, are we to expect anything different on this issue? USA Today reports that when asked today whether he had used the antler spray during his recovery, Lewis replied: "Nah, never."
However, according to S.W.A.T.S, the product can also be ingested in tablet form. Did Lewis answer the question honestly, or did he answer it directly as it was asked, but failed to admit he used the tablets to recover from an injury 75 percent faster than other players have done?
Lewis and the Ravens have had a tumultuous history together. Both came into the league in 1996 as an artificial expansion team stolen from Cleveland by the late Art Modell; Lewis' career skyrocketed with their only Super Bowl victory (to date) but is forever tainted by the deaths of those two Atlanta men, and now Lewis, in his final exit from the game of football, is being accused of using an artificial supplement to ensure his one last chance at the spotlight.
Whether he used the supplement containing a banned substance or not, or whether it had anything to do with his record recovery, the one thing we can take from Lewis' legacy is the lack of expectation that he will clear up any obstructions from this issue.