NEW ORLEANS — The Baltimore Ravens don’t intend to let the controversy surrounding linebacker Ray Lewis become a distraction in their preparation for the Super Bowl.
An article in Sports Illustrated said Lewis sought help from a company that says its deer-antler spray and pills contain a banned product connected to human growth hormone.
“We can’t let that distract us from our one true mission, winning the Super Bowl,” Baltimore running back Ray Rice said Wednesday, shortly before the Ravens practiced to prepare for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Minutes earlier, Lewis said he “never, ever” used performance-enhancing drugs in his effort to return from a torn right triceps. He also distanced himself from Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS).
The Ravens are standing behind the 37-year-old Lewis, who sat out 12 weeks before returning to fuel the Ravens’ playoff run. He will end his 17-year career after the Super Bowl.
“Ray is an awesome guy and we’re here to play football. We don’t even want to give that (report) any merit,” Baltimore guard Bobbie Williams said. “It’s kind of sad that they would try to discredit a guy who’s done so much and been such a big influence not only to this team but the National Football League. Here we are just a couple of days away from the Super Bowl and they try to do this right here. We just really want to just stay away from that.”
Coach John Harbaugh also backed Lewis, saying, “He told me there’s nothing to it. He’s told us in the past, he’s told us now, that he’s never taken any of that stuff, ever. And I believe Ray.”
So do Lewis’ teammates.
“No one has not passed a test and no one has tested positive for anything, so it’s all speculation,” linebacker and special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo said. “There’s information and disinformation. If you have a little intelligence you can dissect it and keep it moving.”
The 49ers also find the story hard to believe.
“I don’t think Ray would take any substance,” San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis said.
Lewis and the Ravens have been taught not to take any medication or drug without first getting the OK from the league or the team’s training staff.
“I will run everything by my trainers to make sure it’s legal by the NFL,” cornerback Corey Graham said. “As an NFL player and a professional athlete, you do try a lot of stuff. I’m not going to sit here and say you don’t. But you do have to run it by your trainers and people who know what’s legal and not legal before you try it.”
Linebacker Paul Kruger said he learned of the league’s policy on drugs during his first season in the NFL.
“If there is something you’re interested in taking, you have to make sure it’s cleared and OK,” he said. “From what I recall from the rookie symposium, the best way is to take it to the trainer and see what they think.”
Williams said if he is interested in taking something, he’ll check with the NFLPA.
“They run it for banned substances and have people there for us to check everything,” Williams said. “They’ll send me back an email telling me everything is cleared. That said, you’re still responsible for everything you put in your body.”