Ray Lewis displayed the positive side of a strenuous off-season yesterday.
The Ravens' All-Pro middle linebacker took the field for the first practice of training camp looking trim and toned. In his five years as a pro, Lewis has been known to carry some extra weight into the start of camp and shed it by the end of the first week.
However, Lewis found a weightlifting partner in new teammate Shannon Sharpe and they worked out every day in Atlanta, where Lewis was being tried on murder charges nearly two months ago.
"I'm probably in the best shape ever right now - by far," Lewis said. "I didn't do anything different. I think working is working, regardless. I've always worked in the off-season. This year, I just had a little more focus."
Lewis may have dropped some pounds, but he didn't lose his intensity.
He could be heard trash-talking teammates from the sidelines during non-contact drills. He tried to work himself into as many reps as possible, shaking his head when it wasn't his turn.
"Joy is anytime I step onto the football field, regardless of what I've been through," said Lewis, who declined to talk about anything other than training camp, including his lecture at the NFL Rookies symposium last month. "I think it's more fun because everyone is on the same page. It's not just about winning the division, it's about playoffs. It's about getting to Tampa [for the Super Bowl]."
Assist from dad
Chris Redman, a rookie quarterback from Louisville, knew holding out another day would hurt his father as much as it might harm his career.
So the Ravens' third-round pick said he "made it clear" to his agents that he did not want to be a holdout any longer and agreed to a three-year deal worth $1.291 million at 1:30 yesterday morning. Redman signed his contract just hours before the first practice.
"My dad was a [high school] coach and he believes when practice starts, you have to be out on the field and ready to go," Redman said. "That's kind of my mentality."
No. 1 for a day
It's been five years since Don Icsman suited up in football gear, much less compete for a starting job.
But the 27-year-old rookie punter out of Heidelberg College has landed his first training camp invitation and the spotlight for a day. Icsman was the only punter in Ravens camp yesterday, as starter Kyle Richardson held out for the first day of training camp before agreeing to his one-year tender last night.
"I'm just here getting better every day," Icsman said. "This is all new to me."
Icsman, whose NFL experience amounts to two days at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' minicamp last year, averaged 42.6 yards a punt as a senior at Heidelberg in 1995. Most of his punts yesterday were between 40 and 45 yards.
Coach Brian Billick cut out one-on-one drills because of the rain, which ended the morning practice 15 minutes early. ... After receiver Jermaine Lewis had the ball stripped away following a catch, he covered the ball with two hands the rest of the day. ... The afternoon practice also had its share of rain, which led to 12 players slipping throughout the 1 1/2 -hour session. Strong safety Kim Herring went down and came up holding his left hip, but returned to make an interception. ... The defense got the better of its offensive teammates, as James Trapp, Robert Bailey and Jamie Sharper broke up passes on consecutive plays in the afternoon drills.