Lewis to end career on the greatest stage of all
His Baltimore team-mates offered their support. “We’re not going to pay it any mind,” said his fellow Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “We know it’s all feathers in the wind.”
More cynical observers noted that trouble has had a habit of following Lewis around. After all, his previous Super Bowl appearance - in January 2001 - arrived less than a year after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a murder trial.
Only Lewis, along with the handful of others present, truly knows what happened outside Atlanta’s Cobalt Lounge nightclub on January 31st, 2000. Then 24, Lewis had flown into town to sample the Super Bowl festivities as a fan. In the small hours of the morning after the game he was with a group that became involved in a fight outside the club. It finished with two young men – Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar – stabbed to death.
Lewis was initially charged with murder, along with two of the friends who had been with him that night – Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.
The charge against the player was dropped, however, when he made his obstruction of justice plea and agreed to testify against his fellow defendants. Lewis was handed a 12-month suspended sentence but, despite his testimony, Oakley and Sweeting would later be acquitted by a jury.
Nobody was convicted of the two men’s murder. When members of the deceased men’s families initiated civil proceedings against him, Lewis twice chose to settle out of court.
The image Lewis seeks to portray these days is not that of the flawless being but rather the reformed sinner – one who turned his life around. Asked this week how he had changed since the 2001 Super Bowl, Lewis spoke of a transition from “follower” to self-proclaimed spiritual leader of his team. His is an overtly religious message, Lewis proclaiming in an interview this past summer that the murder allegations were part of God’s plan.
If Lewis is no longer the athlete he once was then he is not a passenger. Lewis has not missed a single defensive play throughout the play-off run. His 44 tackles over the past three games are the most for the team. The man in second place, Corey Graham, has 26.
Tomorrow Lewis will have one last chance to remind us of just what a player he has been against a San Francisco offence that has scored 73 points over the past two weeks. Success might not change the way he is perceived but it would certainly make for a more enjoyable way to ride off into retirement.