Tagliabue: An honor to give Lewis MVP trophy

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis smiles on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28 in Tampa, Fla. Lewis is the Super Bowl MVP in the Ravens 34-7 win.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis smiles on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28 in Tampa, Fla. Lewis is the Super Bowl MVP in the Ravens 34-7 win. (AP/Doug Mills)
On the day after this Super Bowl, Ray Lewis was a family man and the Baltimore Ravens were America's Family.

The Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXV, hoarse from staying up all night to celebrate, said Monday his greatest joy after Sunday night's 34-7 demolition of the New York Giants was just being with his 5-year-old son, Ray III, and his three other children.

“There's no feeling like that in the world to walk up to my son, and he tells me, ‘Daddy, you were the Super Bowl MVP,”' Lewis said. “He said, ‘I can't believe you dropped all those balls.”'

The day after the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta, Lewis lied to police in the investigation of a double murder still unsolved. As Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams was accepting the MVP trophy, Lewis was refusing to cooperate with authorities after the men riding in his limousine got involved in a fight outside a bar following the game.

Lewis spent 15 days in jail, and said later it broke his heart to hear his son ask why he saw him in chains on television.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said if anybody ever has to endure what Lewis did before charges were dropped in his murder trial, “pray that you handle it the way that Ray did in terms of confidence, holding true to your convictions, and just staying true to the person that you are and having the strength to get through it.”

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who fined Lewis $250,000 at the start of the season for conduct detrimental to the league after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice, said it was an “honor and a privilege” to present Lewis the MVP trophy.

Tagliabue named great middle linebackers in NFL history, and said Lewis belonged.

“This team taught me what the concept of team is about,” Billick said. “The term team and family are interchangeable. When you go through what this team has gone through this last year, the sense of family does come through.”

The Super Bowl champion Bears of 1985—the team compared with the Ravens—were controversial too. Quarterback Jim McMahon was fined by then-commissioner Pete Rozelle for wearing headbands with his own non-NFL-approved messages on them. The Bears had to overcome the ridicule of taping the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video before the season ended.

Lewis said he would delay his trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl to return to Baltimore Monday to celebrate with fans who have been so supportive. “I would feel I'm cheating them,” he said, if he didn't attend.

Lewis said he had signed no endorsement deals, but added, “There are a lot of things that have come my way.”

Bob Williams, president of Chicago-based Burns Sports Celebrity Service, said Monday the tolerance level for controversial celebrities has changed in the last few years. Basketball's Latrell Sprewell, who once choked coach P.J. Carlesimo, eventually got a shoe ad.

“Once upon a time, six-seven years ago before Nike and Reebok started the trend of using controversial athletes like Charles Barkley, Deion Sanders, Allen Iverson, Dennis Rodman, this guy (Lewis) had no chance,” Williams said. “I think his market is going to be maybe one company on a national level.”

Lewis said when he broke up the first pass thrown by Kerry Collins on the game's first play, it set the tone.

“Every team we've played has said, ‘They're good, but we don't know if they're that good,”' Lewis said.

On the second series, Collins scrambled and slid far short of a first down, obviously trying to preserve himself and settle for a game of punts and field position.

“When people watch us on film, they don't really watch what we really do well, and that's fly to the ball,” Lewis said. “I think Kerry Collins saw that. The first couple of series, they realized, ‘This defense is for real.”'

Lewis said to be compared to guys “like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary, guys like that at age 25, is flattering and an honor.”

Billick said Monday morning he expected defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis to get one of the two vacant head coaching jobs in Buffalo and Cleveland. Cleveland announced the hiring of Miami coach Butch Davis on Monday afternoon. Buffalo would seem the more logical fit anyway because Lewis worked with new Bills General Manager Tom Donohoe in Pittsburgh.

“Jack Del Rio (linebackers coach) will be the new defensive coordinator,” Billick said. “After the game I gave Jack a big hug and said, ‘Congratulations. All you have to do is go to a Super Bowl and break the all-time scoring record, or they will boo you and me out of town.”'

Billick started his press conference with a quip that will set the tone for the Ravens' bid to repeat.

“If you thought I was arrogant before, whoa, wait until you get a load of me now,” Billick said.

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