Sharpe's friendly advice to Lewis: Stay a Raven

The Baltimore Sun

TAMPA, Fla. - Shannon Sharpe's advice to linebacker Ray Lewis is: Stay with the Ravens.

Sharpe, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in the 2000 season, remains close friends with Lewis and talks to him frequently.

One topic that has been discussed is Lewis' decision when he becomes a free agent at the end of February.

Said Sharpe, who is at the Super Bowl for Sirius NFL radio: "I told Ray: 'Consider returning. You're like [John] Elway in Denver and [Dan] Marino in Miami. They should erect a statue of you next to Johnny Unitas. That's the kind of impact you've had in Baltimore. That should mean something to you.' "

Lewis, 33, will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 13-year career if he doesn't sign a new deal or the Ravens don't use the franchise tag on him.

"I think he wants to return," Sharpe said. "It all depends on how bad does he want to return. With the exception of quarterback, when you become an older player, the value goes down. So, Ray, how bad do you want to stay in Baltimore? Do you want to stay in Baltimore for two years for $12 million or do you want to go somewhere else and get $20 million? It's as simple as that."

Sharpe knows what it's like to change teams. He joined the Ravens after spending the first 10 years of his career with the Denver Broncos.

"Ray, personally, you are more valuable to the Ravens at less price than you would be somewhere else," Sharpe said. "Nowhere else can you be Ray Lewis. ... You could go anywhere. You're not going to be Ray Lewis. You'll be a guy. You'll be No. 52. You'll be Ray Lewis in name alone and not in stature.

"When you're a great player and you go to a different team, you have to start at the ground floor. You've got some credibility, but you can't go in there and tell everybody, 'Look, let's have a meeting.' "

Rod Woodson, who is covering the Super Bowl for the NFL Network, hasn't talked with Lewis, but he understands the situation of his former teammate, too.

"I know he wants to return," Woodson said. "But at the end of the day, very similar to my 10 years in Pittsburgh, he's going to have to make a decision that's best for him and his future."

Ditto: Fitzgerald to Boldin

Larry Fitzgerald would consider restructuring his contract if it helps to keep fellow Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin on the team.

"Fitz and I have been together for five years, and we've been through a lot together," Boldin said. "I think the relationship that we have, neither of us want to see broken up."

Fitzgerald signed a four-year, $40 million contract after the 2007 season, and Boldin has two years left on the four-year, $22.75 million contract he signed after the 2005 season.

Injury update

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward (knee) and Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith (knee) were the only starters who did not practice yesterday.

It's not a surprise about Ward, who routinely misses practices on Wednesdays to save the wear and tear on his body. Smith has four sacks in his past six games.

The only other players who did not participate yesterday were Cardinals: running back J.J. Arrington (knee), punter Ben Graham (left groin) and defensive end Travis LaBoy (biceps).

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