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Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis arrives for media day in preparation for Super Bowl XLVII. / Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports

NEW ORLEANS -- A spray containing deer antler extract was the fresh topic awaiting Ray Lewis on Super Bowl media day, but with dozens of reporters crowding Podium 4 inside the Superdome, someone in the back wanted to talk about his pre-game boogie.

So, naturally, No. 52 gleefully served up an anecdote about the origin of "The Squirrel".

Maybe it was fitting for Lewis to talk about a choreographed shimmy.

When the serious topic arose, stemming from a Sports Illustrated report linking the iconic linebacker to a banned substance purported to accelerate healing, Lewis tap-danced to the next question.

"Two years ago, that was the same report," Lewis snorted. "I wouldn't give that report, or him, any of my press. He's not worthy of that. Next question."

Suspicions don't disappear at Lewis' command. Two years ago, reports linked former Ravens assistant Hue Jackson to a company that he promoted that has a spray product containing a substance banned by the NFL. Jackson, now coaching Cincinnati Bengals receivers, has severed ties to the company. Yet the new report alleges that Lewis contacted the company's co-founder, Mitch Ross, seeking remedies to aid in his recovery from a torn triceps suffered in mid-October. It was initially believed to be a season-ending injury.

Ross is the "he" that Lewis referred to, hinting that the timing of the SI report is an attempt to capitalize on Super Bowl hype.

"I wouldn't give him credit," Lewis said, "or even mention his name or his antics in my speeches or my moment."

My moment. That was surely the plan. The buzz surrounding Lewis' opportunity to ride off into retirement with a Super Bowl victory is deserved to some degree when considering his 17 years of hard, Hall of Fame-credentialed labor as the face of the Ravens. Maybe he can also trademark the term, "Last Ride."

But Lewis is getting his due in another sense, too.

For everything that defines Lewis' greatness as a player -- leadership, passion, productivity and big plays -- his legacy is shrouded in mystery.

No doubt, the low point of Lewis' career came 13 years ago when two men were murdered following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. Lewis and members of his entourage fled the scene in a limousine rented by Lewis. Murder charges against Lewis were dropped but he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Lewis' two co-defendants were acquitted and the case is unresolved. Lewis paid an undisclosed sum to the victims' families to settle civil cases.

Yet so many questions remain, leaving a haunting cloud over one of the NFL's most popular players. Like it or not, that's essential to the Ray Lewis story, especially as family members maintain that he hasn't told them everything that he knows.

Of course, this chapter in Lewis' past came up Tuesday. In recent weeks, he has refused to address it.

On Tuesday -- when he so willingly talked about his religious faith and fact-dropped that while growing up he was an usher and sang in the choir -- he explained that regardless of what people think, he lives with that tragic episode daily.

There's no disputing that. And when Lewis maintains, as he did Tuesday, that the Super Bowl podium is not the proper place to expound on the murders, that's understood.

Yet Lewis, a man who wears religion on his sleeves, should have come clean and deep and philosophical and passionate with the families of the victims a long time ago.

That doesn't mean he owes any family members another dime. But a conversation would be an idea. As a man of faith who puts himself on that pedestal by preaching a Gospel of compassion, Lewis should do everything in his manly power not to come off like a fraud.

Too often, Lewis comes off as self-serving, offering examples of how he's touched teammates, for example, when nobody asked. He basks in his idea of his legacy.

I attended Lewis' first practice as a rookie in 1996. Before we started an interview, he showed me the daily Bible verse that he received from his mother on his pager.

Back then, Lewis seemed so fresh and genuine as he embarked on his career.

Approaching the last game, the topics have surely changed.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Bell: Ray Lewis getting his due in another sense, too

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