Five questions with former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis

Five questions with former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis speaks on ESPN prior to a Monday night game this September. (Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)
Since he retired in February 2013 after the Ravens'Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Ray Lewis hasn't had any problems keeping busy.
The former Ravens middle linebacker's latest project is a Spike TV series called “Coaching Bad,” which features nine coaches who are trying to get their anger management issues under control. Lewis and Dr. Christian Conte, an anger management specialist, put together a comprehensive program to try to help coaches change their ways.
The show, which premiers Feb. 8, will include a guest appearance from former Ravens defensive coordinator and current Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
Lewis spoke to The Baltimore Sun on Monday to promote the television series, discuss how his post-playing career has evolved and to give his thoughts on the 2014 Ravens.

Why is the premise of "Coaching Bad," helping to reform youth coaches with anger issues, so important to you?

Lewis: “They have a real impact, and I lived it. Kids learn what they live and these coaches, they have to understand how crucial it is to not beat up a kid, to not emotionally take everything from them. It’s the way that they’re doing it, the way they are cursing kids. I think the number one thing that I want parents to do from this show’s concept is find out who you trust your kids with. That’s the part that’s really baffling to me. Some of these coaches, the things that they say to these kids and they put their hands on them, I’m like, 'Wait a minute. If that’s my child, me and you have an issue instantly.’ It became dear to me because my entire life was what this show is about. It’s just about relationship building. That’s the one thing I really appreciate about this show. The reality about this show isn’t like the Kardashian reality. Heck no. But the reality is the reality. People have to change their ways, man. There’s no way you can help a kid like that. You put certain things on TV and you know people are watching and this is the way you treat people? No way. So, that is a sore spot to me. It’s so huge of an epidemic in this world right now. You ask yourself a real question: ‘What in the heck is wrong with coaches? Why do they talk to kids like this?’ And I think once you get into the show, a bunch of those questions will be answered.”

In terms of what you and Dr. Conte do, what is the key to getting them to change their ways?

Lewis: “Finding out where their deepest pains lie. Most of these people are holding onto something so deep in their stomachs that the only way they don’t go back and deal with that is going forward, making other people ultimately feel the way they feel. But they won’t tell you that. … In the show, you’re really going to enjoy the breakdown of trying to get people to understand what they are hurting from. Like, ‘What’s wrong?’  When you see some of these situations, you’ll take a step back yourself and say, ‘Wow I need to do some [questioning] of the people that I’m leaving my kids with.’ You don’t know what people are dealing with. … It was a very unique route that we went at doing this. It goes to how well me and Dr. Conte really got along with each other so quickly. We would play off each other so much, not to be forceful at them, but me more to the point with them to say, ‘Listen, you’ve got to share this with us. You’ve just got to let go.’ That’s what I found out the most, a lot of these people are going through a whole lot themselves.”  

You've now been retired as a player for two full seasons. You've stayed active in the NFL working with ESPN. You're working on this show. Are you pleased with how your post-NFL career is going and what are your ambitions going forward?

Lewis; “Listen, I challenge guys to leave the game on your terms. That’s number one. The reason why is because the life I have now, I appreciate the game more now than when I was in it. When I was in it, it was an everyday grind. I never got a chance to sit in the house and just breathe without getting ready to go to war. It was always a battle. Now, I’m more excited in the business world than I’ve ever been because of what I’ve never seen. I view cities differently now. I used to think Cincinnati and Green Bay and all those places, I thought they were the worst cities ever because I was going in there for one thing. I was going in to get one job done. ‘The fans don’t like me, I don’t like y’all, so hell with it. Let’s just get this thing started and over with.’ Now, it’s different. Now, I see cities. Now, I walk into cities and it’s so funny because people always say, ‘Yeah, I’m a Steelers’ fan.’ I’m like, ‘OK, go ahead. You can be a fan of whoever you want to be.’ I’ve done that side of things. Now, I have so many things in the oven. They tell you that you won’t be as popular after the game compared to when you were playing. Now, I see that as the total opposite. I’m more popular now than when I was playing. People resonated with my story. A lot of these older people, they followed my story for 17-plus years. … I want more kids to see themselves as a brand of their own. I want more guys to understand that opportunity exists not by your agent shaking somebody’s hand, but by you shaking somebody’s hands. Money will come and go, but the one thing that will always be around is relationships. That’s what I’ve built in the second half of my life. I’ve built a bunch of awesome relationships. And I’m just two years removed. I’m going at this hard. You put the right people around you. You get in business with the right people who do the right things. You take some of your passions and you figure out how to work with them. That’s what I’m doing. These few things you see now are just the surface things. Some things take a while to build. There are other things that are coming that are clearly purpose driven and you will hear about them.”   

How do you view the Ravens' 2014 season as a whole? Was it a disappointment because the standards are really high in the organization or do you feel like it was a nice bounce-back year for them considering all the circumstances?

Lewis: “That organization, from the moment I walked out, there is no bounce back. That’s the irony of our sport, you’re in that dance or you’re not. Somebody in less than seven days, they are about to feel what everybody else feels. And that is, ‘It wasn’t my year.’ That’s the reality that I always try to bring to my city and my team. At the end of the year, there will only be one city, one champion. That’s why you play the game. There’s no consolation prizes. Hell no. That’s why when I look at my team, they will be a force and they’re going to have to get it done real soon before things start to break up. … You take Seattle and how long they are going to be together. Russell Wilson is still playing on his rookie contract, so everything around him is in place. That’s rare to keep all these pieces together. Games can be won by talent, but championships are won by chemistry. You can replace anybody with talent all day, but there’s a certain chemistry and a certain leadership that the great teams have. Those are the ones that finish it. We’re at a place where we have to find out that one, two core people that are going to be with us that next four, five, six, seven years to build that organization, to get us back to that dance again. Great teams do it together. Great defenses figure it out together. But I’m excited about what the future holds for the Ravens once we figure out what those key pieces are going to be.  I think it’s going to be exciting.”  

What's the key for them to take that next step again?

Lewis: “I’m talking about winning [championships]. I went my whole career, man, and I had a bunch of good teams. But it’s rings. Baltimore, we will not settle for anything less than rings. That’s why I left when I left because I left touching a ring. … We can’t go backward now. We’ve tasted it. We’re a what, 19-year old organization and we have two rings up under our belt already. Think about how long Cleveland has been around. When’s the last time Cleveland has won a Super Bowl? When’s the last time Cincinnati won a Super Bowl?  Put a camera behind me when I was watching the Ravens against the Patriots a couple of weeks ago. I almost lost my mind. Somebody asked me the other day, who do I cheer for? I don’t cheer for nobody. I cheer for one team: the Ravens. And that’s forever. I’m forever a Raven. I pick and lose with them and I pick and win with them. That’s who I’m picking every week. … I kept saying, ‘fourth quarter, fourth quarter, fourth quarter.’ I knew it was going to come down to that type of game. I guarantee you not one player in that locker room will say, ‘Nah man, we had a pretty good season.’ Hell no. The standard is too high for that. I like the things that we’re doing. I like where we’re headed. But I was craving. I was like, ‘Can you imagine, if the Ravens go to the Super Bowl, and I’m going to be Arizona? It’s going to be beautiful.' But of course, there’s only one city that’s going to get to smile at the end of the day.”