When news reports surfaced recently about his Super Bowl XLVII ring being auctioned for about $50,000, few people were more surprised than former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis.
According to Lewis, 35, he sold the ring about two years ago and spoke with team owner Steve Bisciotti before the transaction. Lewis said he needed the cash after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia in 2012.
"It really wasn't as big a deal as everyone made it out to be a few weeks ago," said Lewis, who resides in Atlanta. "I informed Mr. Bisciotti and he understood it was about business. He has been very supportive, along with [Ravens team president] Dick Cass.
"I saw it on television and they made it seem like it was yesterday. I have moved on from that situation and am at a great place in my life. People can think whatever they want, but I have a great relationship with the Ravens."
The selling of the ring about two weeks ago by Goldin Auctions to a Maryland collector set off a firestorm of speculation and innuendo about Lewis, who was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor in September 2012.
A lot of it was negative, but some questions were valid because Lewis was a star in Baltimore, and it was shocking to hear of him selling his ring. Plus, it sounded like other sad stories you often hear about players who made millions on the field, but were broke several years after leaving the game.
But with Lewis, that didn't make sense. He always showed good business sense and was honest and straight forward. There were few Ravens who were as polite or intelligent, and even fewer who were as passionate and hard-working when it came to football.
He just never seemed destined for failure.
"I wasn't frivolous in spending," said Lewis, who is a partner and vice president of Metro Exhibits, which provides exhibit and trade show services and has four locations throughout the U.S. "I was just part of the economic turn down in this country.
"I had two businesses [trucking and real estate] that went under because of a $25 million judgment against me," said Lewis, who listed $24 million in assets at his bankruptcy. "What happened was that I had secured a loan from Lehman Brothers, and when they filed for bankruptcy [September 15, 2008], they called in their loan against me, which I couldn't pay off at that time. So I had to file for bankruptcy, even though I managed to run the trucking company until 2011. If you look back at that time, a lot of companies were having problems or went under."
So, Lewis sold his ring. It's not something he is proud of, but a decision he had to make. The ring was given to him and other members of the team's Ring of Honor after the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012.
But if anyone is feeling sorry for Lewis, that would be a big mistake. Lewis is just as confident now as when he played six seasons in Baltimore. That Lewis was fast and smart enough to run around the opposition, or strong enough to run over it.
He was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 when he rushed for 2,066 yards. He finished with the Ravens as the team's all-time leading rusher with 7,801 yards and 45 touchdowns.
Without Lewis, the Ravens don't win the Super Bowl in 2000. That punishing style and demeanor are keys for him on the comeback trail.
"There are certain things you take from this game when you're done, and you definitely know how to handle adversity," Lewis said. "There is that pressure of winning and competing, of possibly losing your job to someone younger and stronger. I have learned and gained a lot of wisdom from playing in the NFL.
"I know what it is to struggle, but I also know what it is like to overcome, and I have a strong support system in place now, and the Ravens have been a great part of that support."
Lewis has been with Metro Exhibit for seven months and is responsible for developing the company's relationship and strategies with key account holders as well as finding new clients.
According to Lewis, he still battles the effects of multiple concussions during his nine-year career, including slight depression and memory loss.
But last year he attended several Ravens games and says he has a newfound respect for Bisciotti and Cass, who have provided him with sound business advice since his bankruptcy.
He sounds a lot like the old Lewis we used to see on Sundays around here. Down and out? Oh no, just as calm as ever.
"I guess when people think you have lost everything, they don't call you anymore," said Lewis, laughing. "That's a good thing. No one is calling me asking me for money anymore. I remember when I made my first big contract; I went though a lot of changes. It's hard to prepare for the money and notoriety.
"But I have never been at this kind of peace where I am now. The doctors have told me to stay active and engaged in my businesses and that will help me. I have a great job, and everything is working out well. If others think differently, that is fine, but that shouldn't be based on what happened two-to-three years ago."