Ravens MLB Ray Lewis began the 2010 season very much looking like he was still one of the elite at his position at age 35. After the Week One win at the Jets, head coach John Harbaugh said he believed Lewis was still the best linebacker in the game, and he dismissed the notion that Lewis was slowing down.
Lewis can still deliver a tremendous blow, as evidenced when he drilled Jets TE Dustin Keller on the Jets' next-to-last play of the game on an incomplete pass. And he remains the emotional leader of the club.
In a recent interview, Ravens LB coach Dean Pees said Lewis' leadership behind the scenes stems from his deeds as well as his words.
"The thing about it is, everybody kind of, I think, looks at Ray and looks at maybe the vocal part and the emotional part that he plays and his intensity, but (the) other thing about what, to me, makes him a great leader, is the fact that he's never going to ask somebody else to do something that he wouldn't do," Pees told PFW. "Guys respect that. And coaches respect that."
Pees, who's in his first season with Baltimore, added, "He demands the respect of the players, and they respect him, because he puts in just as much time, if not more time."
Pees, who spent the previous six seasons with the Patriots, including four as defensive coordinator, worked with several accomplished linebackers during his time in New England, including Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel. Also, Steelers OLB James Harrison played for Pees at Kent State, where Pees was head coach from 1998-2003.
"What separates the great ones from the good ones sometimes is the film study, the extra time that they put in knowing the team's opponent, knowing the personnel you're playing against, how they're going to attack you and just knowing the game," Pees said of linebackers.
Asked about Lewis' preparation, Pees shared the following:
"We spend a heck of a lot of time studying film. You may have a tip on an offensive lineman, maybe somebody's stance, maybe a quarterback's mechanics, it could be any little thing.
"And what really kind of impresses me always with Ray is usually by the time I get ready to tell him something about that, he's already seen it too.
"That just tells you. I have had a lot of linebackers, and like I say, the great ones really can kind of know that almost before you tell them, and they're already prepared."