Q&A with Ravens' Ray Lewis

Editor's note: Ray Lewis spoke with The Baltimore Sun about the Ravens' problems on the field and his life off it. The Pro Bowl linebacker discussed his weekly training sessions with the Baltimore Police Department, and his relationship with Steve McNair's mother. Lewis also addressed the team's focus for today's game against the Detroit Lions (2-10), the reason for the team's penalties and why he is convinced that the Ravens (6-6) will make the playoffs.

Question: The Ravens, who are 13 1/2 -point favorites over the Detroit Lions today, have a 7-1 record under coach John Harbaugh in games in which they are favored by at least seven points. What makes the Ravens so focused that they rarely overlook teams?

Answer: We have a great veteran presence that keeps everyone focused on the week-to-week. The thing I always preach is this is the National Football League. I don't care what Sunday it is, you can be beat. So, forget people's records. You'd better come out and play football.

As you've seen, the Oakland Raiders beat Pittsburgh and the Dolphins came back to beat New England. That's the thing we get. Every week, we come in and we prepare. We prepare the same way for whoever is supposed to be good and whoever is supposed to be bad.

Q: The Ravens' defense has bounced back after the bye and now ranks 10th in the NFL. But the Ravens have the seventh-fewest sacks in the NFL, recording one in their past three games. What's wrong with the pass rush?

A: Anytime you take a Terrell Suggs out and you start to mix and match people to put them in different places, it changes the scheme. But you can see some things when you look at what Antwan Barnes did last week coming off the ball and what Paul Kruger did against Pittsburgh.

You look at our defense, and you say that it's not the same anymore. You got to realize - we have a lot of rookies and second-year guys in a lot of places. That's the transition. You have to keep pushing forward to get these young guys to understand that you've got to be next man up.

Q: The Ravens have hurt themselves this season with slow starts, getting outscored 82-29 in the first half in their six losses. What's wrong with the Ravens in the first half this season?

A: Of course, everything is obvious. You can't spot people in the NFL. You've got to keep the game close. You can't make the crucial turnover in the red zone. You can't make the crucial penalty on third down. Those are the things that have hurt us in the first half.

You can come out in the second half, and maybe have all of those things corrected, but there are only 30 minutes left in the half. That's the thing we have to improve on offensively first to make sure these things don't happen, but defensively as well, too.

Q: The Ravens are once again one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, ranking second in penalties (90) and penalty yards (868). Do the Ravens have a bad reputation with officials?

A: You can say that. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. When you watch film, sometimes you look at yourself and say, "Huh?" You got on a helmet and shoulder pads and just wish the refs would say, "It is football, and it ain't basketball." A touch foul ain't a touch foul. If somebody's hand touches another, you've got to let that play out.

When you see a lot of people arguing this across the league, it's because receivers are becoming such great actors. If somebody is stopping your progress, yeah. But if you're playing in the schoolyard, you'd never get that call. That's the way football has always been taught. If you're in the schoolyard, you'd better make a play. You can't cry about it and try to get a flag. It's frustrating at times, but you've got to keep playing, too.

Q: Joe Flacco has taken some criticism recently for his play, especially after throwing three interceptions Monday at Green Bay. What's your level of faith in Flacco?

A: You never judge a person if they're going through their downs because you always stick with them when they're going through their ups. I always tell Joe, "Keep playing football." If you stay in this business long enough, you're going to have some bad games and you're going to have some bad seasons.

The important thing is: Do you prepare the same? Does your passion leave the game because you're not having the success you want? Or do you work harder or study more? That's the kind of things that I emphasize to Joe and Ray Rice. Keep loving the game.

Q: This season, you have become a personal trainer for the Baltimore City Police. Every Tuesday (your one day off), you put police officers through a scaled-down version of your workout routine, from jumping rope to sit-ups to ladder drills. Why did you decide to do something like this?

A: I honestly think it's one of the greatest things ever to interact with people always trying to make a difference. They're like the soldiers overseas. They sacrifice their lives. Through my experience of training them, that's a stress relief. They come in there, and we really get a mind, body and spirit experience. We pray before and after. You can see the enlightenment of the stress leaving them. Sometimes, they don't like me pushing them, but they get over it. (laughs).

Q: Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has had a restraining order issued against him and now is getting sued for $70 million for alleged physical abuse of a woman who says she is the mother of his two children. Have you talked to Suggs about his situation?

A: I did tell him that no matter what, just know you have people like me always in your corner and always praying for you. We all find ourselves going through things, whatever they are. But you have to know that nobody wants you to get into trouble.

I told him today, "You're truly missed out on that football field." A lot of times people don't realize how frustrating it is when you're hurt [Suggs has a knee injury] and you really want to be out there helping your team. I've told him, "Just make sure you don't keep it to yourself." When you do that, it ruins who we are as people. That's my lesson to him.

Q: After the murder of your teammate and close friend Steve McNair in July, you have bonded with his mother, calling her before every game. Describe your relationship with her.

A: We talk every other day. You've got to understand you can only replace a son with a son. For her, she goes through a lot. She calls me sometimes, "Son, I'm going through it." I tell her, "Ma, it's OK. Just keep fighting. I'm here." Most of the time when I call her, I make her laugh as a son. I crack so many old-school jokes. Even that's a harsh reality, too. I talk to her every Sunday morning, you hear her say, "I'm going through it." Of course, I was thinking about the game and this is about life.

Q: With a 6-6 record, what convinces you that the Ravens are a playoff team?

A: It's always been the same thing: We're grinders. If it's going to come, it's going to come late, as it's always been around here. We've had a couple of seasons where we started out 4-0 here or there, but the bottom line is every year I've been around here, our best football probably came in the latter part of the year. Here we go again. Nothing is out of the picture. You look at the whole AFC picture, everything is right there.

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