Ray Lewis showed up Tuesday for the first day of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp, looking considerably leaner after an offseason in which he dedicated himself to adjusting to a quicker and pass-oriented NFL.
Lewis' longtime teammate, Ed Reed, meanwhile, made his own statement by not showing up, spurring even more questions about the mercurial safety's commitment and mindset heading into the 2012 season.
While running back Ray Rice expectedly stayed away from the mandatory camp as his agent works on a long-term contract extension , Reed was an unexcused absence, his latest display of discontent with the team as he heads into the final year of his contract.
"I have not communicated with Ed so I'm not sure what the situation is on that," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh who explained the absences of two other veteran non-participants, Matt Birk (leg surgery) and Bryant McKinnie (conditioning).
Asked if he was concerned by Reed's absence which continues a tumultuous offseason for the veteran safety, Harbaugh said, "The [collective bargaining agreement] applies, and I haven't talked to him."
The CBA stipulates that players under contract — Rice does not apply because he has yet to sign his franchise tender for 2012 — are subject to fines for each day missed during mandatory minicamp . If Reed misses all three and there certainly is no indication he'll show up Wednesday, the 33-year-old could be docked as much as $63,000 for missing the workouts and another $9,000 for not taking the pre minicamp physical.
It's the Ravens' decision to fine Reed or not, but Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti, made it clear in recent days they expected him to attend the minicamp despite the fact they hadn't spoken to Reed. However, Lewis has spoken to Reed and downplayed his long-time teammate's absence.
"People across the world never worry about minicamps or whatever," Lewis said. "Whatever him and coach talked about, they talked about. I don't think it's an issue at all. Ed has other things going, a baby boy, and he's really trying to focus on things like that. Sometimes, life calls you away from the game. These three days won't take away from what Ed Reed's focus is, and that is to come back and help our defense be the best defense there is in football. I don't think it's an issue at all, not for us."
Still, Reed's behavior this offseason puts further attention on his absence. In late March, Reed, during his induction into the University of Miami Hall of Fame, told The South Florida Sun Sentinel that he was contemplating retirement though he still feels he can play "four to five" more years.
A week later during a local radio interview with 105.7 The Fan, Reed said that he felt disrespected by the Ravens and acknowledged that he was open to discussing a contract extension to "help the team."
He then said in a Sirius/XM NFL interview in mid-May that he wasn't "100 percent committed" to playing the 2012 season. He later backtracked from that statement, but Tuesday's absence will only lead to more speculation.
Lewis isn't worried and expects the eight-time Pro Bowl selection to be ready to go when training camp starts next month.
"I've talked to him. I talk to him all the time. I don't expect nothing different," Lewis said. "Ed is Ed and when July 25th comes up, Ed will be here and we'll be getting ready to roll."
Lewis, the 37-year-old who is heading into his 17th NFL campaign, appeared to be in mid-season form. On one sequence, the middle linebacker burst through the line and touched down running back Anthony Allen before he could get out of the backfield.
After the workout, he was asked whether Monday's retirement of his former teammate, wide receiver Derrick Mason, makes him consider when his own career could come to an end.
"[Mason] was probably one of the best receivers I've been around playing this game, but at the same time, Mase had a couple of different homes and that itself kind of drains you," Lewis said. "Being here in Baltimore for 17 years now, it's a different energy so you never really think about it, 'Oh, when it's going to come?' If I'm trading teams here and there, OK, my window could be closing. For me, the relationship that me, [General Manager Ozzie Newsome] and Steve have, and the relationship I have with my body is, go as long as you want to go. Whenever it happens, it happens, but it's definitely nothing I think about."
Lewis missed four games in 2011 with a toe injury, but still led the Ravens with 95 tackles to go along with two sacks, one interception and seven passes defended. He was selected for his 13th Pro Bowl. But after the team lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, the linebacker decided to focus his demanding offseason workout plan on getting leaner.
So he has spent the offseason doing "a bunch of everything," with a heavy focus on bike riding and swimming.
"My mentality was, change with the game," Lewis said. "There are no more true, true, true, physical, physical fullbacks that are going to come at me and sledgehammer all day. So, everything is about mismatches now and everything is about speed and about running and trying to get smaller people on the field. So, just adjust to the game, and as you see guys get older in their careers, you see a lot of people don't do that. And that was my thing this year. ... If you've been in the game so long, you just learn to adjust to it."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun