Lewis not focused on Jets’ Ryan, past

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As the Ravens celebrated their dramatic victory in San Diego on Sunday, reliving Ray Lewis’(notes) game-ending stop in the cramped visitors’ locker room at Qualcomm Stadium, it occurred to me that it had also been a landmark afternoon for a man near and dear to their hearts.

While watching Terrell Suggs(notes) put the finishing touches on his postgame outfit – a gaudy gold, jewel-encrusted Star of David medallion that was the Pro Bowl pass rusher’s apparent acknowledgment of Rosh Hashanah – I asked if he was happy for Rex Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator who earlier Sunday had coached the Jets to a 16-9 upset of the Patriots.

Before Suggs could answer, Lewis looked over from a nearby locker and treated my question like it was Darren Sproles(notes) on fourth-and-2.

Photo Ravens teammates converge around Lewis (52) following Sunday’s win over the Chargers.
(Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire)

“That’s dead to us, man,” Lewis said, shaking his head for emphasis. “That’s lastyear. We’re all about the here and now.”

It seemed like an extreme reaction, but upon reflection I understood Lewis’ point: Each year in the NFL is its own, separate entity, and the people who truly get that have a huge advantage over those who don’t. The ’08 Ravens, for example, rode a rookie coach (John Harbaugh) and a rookie quarterback (Joe Flacco(notes)) to a stunning AFC championship game appearance, and now their 10-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker is thinking even bigger.

I guarantee Lewis wasn’t amused late last month when, after a preseason game between the Ravens and Jets, New York linebacker Bart Scott(notes) – a former teammate who’d been wooed away in free agency – told reporters that Ryan “was the head coach of that football team last year, whether you guys know it or not.”

On a chilly Monday night last December, I sat in a suburban Baltimore bar with Lewis and got a clear indication of his views on leadership. Discussing the notion that he had to adjust to the no-nonsense Harbaugh after years of enjoying ample locker-room latitude under Brian Billick, Lewis laughed and said, “Let me tell you something: He had to adjust to me.”

He later told a story from the 2000 season about having literally taken Billick’s head in his hands and convincing him to swallow his pride and “do it my way” – a formula which led to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship.

“The bottom line is this,” Lewis said. “Players make plays. Coaches make decisions.”

So I suppose I can comprehend why Lewis, after having just made perhaps the most significant individual play of the young season, wasn’t eager to shift the focus to the feats of his former defensive coordinator.

In the here and now, the Jets are one of the teams competing with the Ravens for a possible AFC postseason run – and, less important, for positioning in our weekly top-to-bottom trip through the NFL, inquisition-style.

I can’t tell you who’ll prevail come February, but right now our list begins with the Ravens, who’ve allowed Flacco to trade in his learner’s permit for a real driver’s license and now seem to possess the offensive horsepower to take some of the burden off of Lewis and his defensive mates.

So say hello to our new No. 1 – or, as Suggs said just before leaving the locker room Sunday with his conspicuous bling, “Shalom.”

1. Baltimore Ravens: With the punchless Browns coming to town on Sunday, will these guys have shutout fever or what?

2. New Orleans Saints: How blitz-happy will defensive coordinator Gregg Williams be upon his return to Buffalo, and should Trent Edwards(notes) be worried?

3. New York Giants: If Justin Tuck(notes) joins us for Tuesday’s Live Trippin’, will he think I’m actually Flozell Adams(notes)?

4. New York Jets: Yo, Ryan – the next time Bill Belichick gives you one of his patented blow-off postgame handshakes, will you kindly wrap him in a bear hug and hold on for, like, 15 minutes?

5. Atlanta Falcons: Is there any doubt that Tony Gonzalez(notes) is still the league’s best pass-catching tight end?

6. Pittsburgh Steelers: Will Ben Roethlisberger(notes) stay perfect in Ohio on Sunday, or will Carson Palmer(notes) and the Bengals finally stand tall against their division rivals the way they’d hoped to in the ’05 playoffs?

7. Dallas Cowboys: During the next nationally televised spectacle at Cowboys Stadium on Monday, can we please see more of Felix Jones(notes) and less of The Decider?

8. Philadelphia Eagles: Can Michael Vick(notes) play defensive back?

9. New England Patriots: What’s more imbalanced: a bar full of Pats fans after a hard-fought loss to the Jets or Belichick’s offense?

10. Indianapolis Colts: As Pierre Garcon(notes) was racing into the end zone with the winning points Monday night, how many fellow Tarantino fans had a craving for cheap coffee?

11. San Francisco 49ers: If Frank Gore(notes) runs like he did Sunday, will he give the great Adrian Peterson a run for his money in the Metrodome this weekend?

12. San Diego Chargers: How obviously do they miss Jamal Williams(notes) – and, for that matter, where the hell is Shawne Merriman(notes)?

13. Green Bay Packers: Did the Pack really allow the Bengals to eventually pick up a first down after facing a third-and-34 – and was that the worst thing we’ve seen from the green-and-gold since the infamous fourth-and-26?

14. Chicago Bears: How many of you fans fetched your crumpled up Jay Cutler(notes) jerseys out of the trash after Sunday’s performance against the Steelers?

15. Arizona Cardinals: Did Todd Haley sneak back to the desert to scream at the Cardinals’ offensive players last week, or did Ken Whisenhunt’s threat to bench people who commit penalties do the trick?

16. Minnesota Vikings: Aside from the fact that they’ve played two decent halves in two games against two atrocious teams, how can I possibly disrespect the Vikings by ranking them this low?

17. Tennessee Titans: How can such a terrific secondary look so helpless – and is it fair to say new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil needs to figure that out very, very quickly?

18. Cincinnati Bengals: So can we now agree that whole Cedric Benson(notes) revival thing from 2008 wasn’t a fluke?

19. Houston Texans: If Sunday’s victory at Tennessee was the biggest win in franchise history, as decreed by owner Bob McNair, how rotten is this franchise’s history?

20. Miami Dolphins: Does Tony Sparano think there are five quarters, or is he just not that into hurrying with the game on the line?

21. Denver Broncos: Has any current NFL player become less significant more quickly than Brandon Marshall(notes)?

22. Carolina Panthers: When Julius Peppers(notes) declared last February that he didn’t want to play for the Panthers, who knew he’d stick to the plan even after accepting his franchise tender from the team?

23. Seattle Seahawks: Is any team more banged up and is it yet another reminder that, after Super Bowl XL, this team got really old, really fast?

24. Washington Redskins: With underrated guard Randy Thomas(notes) out for the season, how will this team possibly maintain its awesome 13-points-per-game average?

25. Buffalo Bills: After Sunday, is it fair to say Fred Jackson(notes) has a “Beast Mode,” too?

26. Oakland Raiders: How many Raiders fans wish JaMarcus Russell(notes) were more accurate when throwing to receivers and less accurate when putting fork to mouth?

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Does the fact that Scott Pioli is already being referred to as “Ego-li” by Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock suggest that the Chiefs’ freshly hired general manager failed to understand the media-relations dynamic of his new city?

28. Jacksonville Jaguars: Who has a bigger crush on Tim Tebow – every eligible coed on the Florida campus, or Wayne Weaver?

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hey, Glazer family – is it fair to say you get what you pay for?

30. Cleveland Browns: Isn’t it a bit inconsistent that in Eric Mangini’s world, a bottle of water can cost $1,701, but Kool-Aid is always free?

31. St. Louis Rams: After Steve Spagnuolo made reporters wait 25 minutes for his news conference following a dreadfully boring 9-7 defeat to the Redskins, how classic would it have been if none of them bothered to show up?

32. Detroit Lions: Should we start calling Ernie Sims(notes) the Lucky Lion?

Michael Silver covers the NFL for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook. Also check out ridewithsilver.com. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009