Sunday, January 07, 2001

NFL Insider

Ravens' Lewis gets some positive attention

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Baltimore middle linebacker Ray Lewis capped an incredible year by being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

        Lewis may not have played much better than he did in the past, but he was noticed because the Ravens went 12-4 and made the playoffs.

        Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa told writers who cover the team, “I think all of a sudden people are noticing him. I think he was a great player when I got here in 1997.”

        Lewis was noticed for the wrong reason last year in Atlanta when he was arrested for a double murder Super Bowl night and spent 15 days in jail.

        During the trial, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction-of-justice charge and received a year's probation. The league fined him $250,000.

        But Lewis came back and reached his MVP goal.

        “It's something I had in my notebook,” Lewis told Baltimore writers. “It's here.”

        TOOTHLESS: The Lions stink at home late in the season.

        There was a time during the Wayne Fontes era that the Lions were a tough team to beat late in the season — at home or on the road. They won five games in a row at the end of the 1989 season, six in a row at the end of 1991, two of the last three in 1990 and 1992, four of the last five in 1994, and seven straight in 1995.

        But since Dec.1, 1996, the Lions have been hopeless at home in December. Oddly, Marshall University — playing in the Motor City Bowl — has won more games at the Silverdome during that time span. Marshall has won three, the Lions just two while losing five.

        WINNER: Titans defensive tackle Jason Fisk has played on teams that are 41-7 over the last three regular seasons. He played for the 15-1 Vikings in 1998 and the 13-3 Titans the last two seasons.

        REDEMPTION: Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer is 8-1 as a starter since replacing Tony Banks. Dilfer's 2-1 in the playoffs, counting 1-1 with the Bucs.

        TIKI TIME: Giants running back Tiki Barber will play in today's game against Philadelphia with a brace on his left arm.

        Barber broke a bone in the arm Dec.17 at Dallas. At the time, team doctors gave Barber the option to have surgery to set the bone, but he refused.

        Barber didn't want his dream season to end. He has a franchise-record 2,085 all-purpose yards (1,006 rushing, 719 receiving, 332 in punt returns, 28 in kickoff returns).

        HAT IN RING: Former Redskins coach Norv Turner is interested in the Cardinals offensive coordinator position and has had a preliminary chat about it with head coach Dave McGinnis.

        McNABB NOTES: In the Eagles' past seven games, quarterback Donovan McNabb has thrown 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

        McNabb completed passes to 10 receivers against Tampa Bay last Sunday. He's completed passes to at least seven receivers in 13 straight games.

        FISH STORY: The Dolphins were the first team since the 1939 Giants to not allow a touchdown in the third quarter all season.

        GRAND SLAM: The Bills' special teams arguably cost them a chance to go to the Super Bowl in the 1999-2000 season because of the Music City Miracle — and may have cost Buffalo a playoff trip this season. The Bills had three losses (at the Jets, Tampa and Minnesota) directly attributable to their coverage units.

        The final NFL stats showed the Bills ranked worst in the NFL in both punt and kickoff returns and in both punt and kickoff coverage.

        In a particularly telling stat, opponents' average start after Buffalo kickoffs was their own 36.1.

        ALWAYS HOPE: With three of the NFC's final four teams coming off losing seasons in 1999, could the Bears possibly turn around things next year?

        “We're a lot more talented than we were two years ago,” offensive tackle James “Big Cat” Williams told Chicago's Sun-Times. “We've brought in some young guys like (AP Defensive Rookie of the Year) Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown. You can build a defense around that.”


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