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Some Sharpe words greet Lewis critics

By MARC TOPKIN and JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001


TAMPA -- Ray Lewis does a pretty good job taking care of himself, but loquacious teammate Shannon Sharpe on Wednesday lent a hand, and a few hundred words.

Sharpe marched over to Lewis' interview session, put his hands on Lewis' shoulders, then launched a pointed diatribe in which he attacked the prosecutors in last year's Super Bowl murder trial, scolded the media and defended the honor of his teammate.

According to Sharpe, Lewis' mistake was being "in the wrong place at the wrong time," and the Atlanta prosecutors made a "terrible" error in judgment.

"I said this before and I'll say it 1,000 times: If he had not been Ray Lewis, if he had not been an All-Pro player, Ray Lewis would have never, ever been implicated," Sharpe said. "People tried to make a name for themselves. ... They took longer to charge Ted Bundy, who killed 30 people. It took them 24 hours to charge this man. He was there. Whether he did it or not, they had Ray Lewis. 'If we don't get anybody else, guess who we got? We got Ray Lewis.' Whether he did it or not, they had Ray Lewis. They made a fatal mistake."

Next, Sharpe went after the media, criticizing it for being more concerned with legal issues than Lewis' on-field accomplishments.

"I just wish all the media, all 2,700 of you, would print him being Defensive Player of the Year, him being the best defensive player in the entire NFL, with the same passion, with the same prejudice that you run that," Sharpe said. "That's all he asks. Give him a fair statement."

Just like old times

Trent Dilfer has had dinner with some old friends (ex-Bucs teammates Brad Culpepper, Dave Moore, John Lynch and Eric Zeier) and hopes to visit his old home on Harbour Island. But what really hit him about being back in Tampa was standing on the Raymond James Stadium turf.

"We were walking off the field after we took the (team) picture and I said, 'You know what guys, I'm going to take this in for a second,' " Dilfer said. "Then I sat there at about the 30-yard line and looked around. In about two or three minutes, it was like one of those movies where you have those flashbacks of all the different memories, most of them good.

"Looking up and seeing where my family used to sit. I was at the end zone where I used to have the kids that I paid (so they) could go to the game; there was a little sign there. I kind of looked around and for the first time I thought, 'Wow, this is kind of cool.' I got caught up in it for a little bit, and then I had to click out of it and get focused on the Giants."

Fight game

Rob Burnett is a pretty good football player. Now he's getting into the boxing game. Burnett and partner Nick Garone manage a stable of a half-dozen fighters, with junior middleweight Ross Thompson among those nationally ranked. Burnett, a longtime boxing fan, got involved after meeting 1996 Olympic middleweight Roshii Wells. "Roshii's father basically was disheartened about a lot of the people in boxing because there really are a lot of degenerates in boxing," Burnett said. "We sat down and talked to some people and did our homework. We figured out what it actually took to be managers and we were off and running."

Media 101

In what has become his daily media critique, coach Brian Billick said Lewis did well in Tuesday's session despite reporters who dared ask about his connection to the murders. "I thought he handled that with a huge amount of class even though people continually tried to get him not to," Billick said.

Truth in advertising

Several Ravens on Wednesday were wearing T-shirts that said BIG NASTY. Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who is 342 pounds and proud of it, did them one better. His shirt said: BIG TROUBLE.

Turf woes

The Ravens practiced in helmets and shoulder pads for nearly two hours at the University of South Florida, and Billick said things got "a little feisty" during the closed session. All players participated, including safety Kim Herring, who had been out with an ankle injury. Billick mentioned two issues with the facilities: the players had to dress at the Sun Dome, then ride a bus one-quarter mile to practice; and the new turf came up in several spots. "Yes, the grass is new and pulling up," Billick said. "But I'm told it's a lot better than it was a month ago." ESPN's Joe Theismann ran the scout team. ... Linebackers Peter Boulware (shoulder) and Cornell Brown (thigh), receiver Billy Davis (knee) and Herring (ankle) were listed as probable.

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