NEW ORLEANS -- Former Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson issued an apology Wednesday night for introducing Mitch Ross to inside linebacker Ray Lewis.
Ross is the co-owner of an Alabama supplement company called Sports With Alternatives to Steroids who is alleging that he supplied the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year with products to accelerate the healing process following a torn right triceps suffered in October against the Dallas Cowboys.
Ross told The Baltimore Sun that he met Lewis through his relationship with Jackson, who is on the Cincinnati Bengals' coaching staff and is in line to soon officially become their new running backs coach.
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"First of all, I'm disappointed for the Ravens," Jackson told The Sun in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "You hate to ever put an organization in that kind of situation. I never knew the young man [Ross] could be that way. I apologize for the whole organization. It should be about the Super Bowl. I met the guy at the [NFL] combine in 2008.
"What happened is you think everybody is doing things for the right reason. I knew there was nothing illegal based on information given by him. He always talked about things, saying they were already approved by the NFL. You live and you learn. I dealt with that two years ago. Anytime it comes up, my name is mentioned."
An emotional Lewis vehemently denied the allegations and called Ross a coward during a news conference at the Super Bowl.
Jackson defended Lewis' reputation, saying Lewis is clean and doesn't use banned substances.
"Ray is one of the greatest football players to ever play the game," Jackson said. "This kind of thing should never happen to him. He doesn't deserve it. It's not fair. This is not about talking about a relationship that he met a guy a few years back. It should be about him trying to win the most important game of all this season. Ray means the world to me. Ray has spoken his peace and I stand behind him 100 percent."
Jackson no longer endorses Ross' supplement products, at the request of the NFL.
And the veteran NFL assistant coach expressed regret for bringing Ross around Lewis and other players.
Jackson said he first met Ross at the NFL scouting combine in 2008 and was under the impression that his products involved the use of something akin to Live Strong bracelets.
"What I needed to do was apologize to Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh, Dick Cass and the Ravens' organization," said Jackson, the Ravens' quarterbacks coach from 2008 to 2009. "I'm the person who introduced him to people. Lesson learned.
"My whole thought is to never put anyone in a bad situation. The league has already dealt with me. Here, it's the Super Bowl, the greatest week of all for football and it's been about anything but the Ravens and the 49ers."
One of the products Lewis was allegedly using was a deer antler velvet spray, which the magazine reported including the substance IGF-1, which is banned by the league. Lewis has denied using the spray.
However, Ross told The Sun that he provided a recovery protocol for Lewis following his injury in October against the Dallas Cowboys that required surgery. Ross also said that he provided products to aid Lewis' recovery from a hamstring injury in 2009 and a toe injury in 2011.
“I was introduced to Ray Lewis by [former Ravens quarterbacks coach] Hue Jackson, and I began working with him that year after I was originally supposed to work with [former Ravens quarterback] Steve McNair,” Ross said. “As soon as I saw him hurt his arm against the Dallas Cowboys, I texted Ray. He texted me back after the game and said, ‘Possible torn triceps.’ Once that was confirmed by the doctors, I asked Ray if he wanted me to set up a program for him and he said, ‘Yes.’ I got him set up and now he’s back on the field.
“It's a shame that Ray is denying taking it. The NFL is uneducated. This is not a steroid. It’s not illegal. Ray is not a cheater. He did it the right way. Ray is a good man. He did the work. He rehabbed his arm and did the workouts. This isn’t a shortcut. It’s just natural science.”
Ross emphasized that the deer antler velvet spray that contains IGF-1 is akin to human growth hormone, but is naturally produced in food products.
“Ray worked his butt off to get back out there,” Ross said. “I helped Ray get back on the field, but he worked so hard to do that. I made an armband for him to use after a week to strengthen the triceps after he got the stitches out. He shouldn't have to deny anything. It makes no sense to me.”
As for Jackson, he wishes he had never met Ross in the first place. Jackson said he feels terrible for the Ravens having to deal with this potential distraction during the Super Bowl.
"I don't get this because we've already addressed all of this before," Jackson said. "It's just not right. I feel very bad for making a mistake and bringing this guy around Ray and the other players.
"I regret that ever happened. You trust people sometimes, and they let you down. This is an absolute shame because it should be about football, not this stuff."