Here in 2012, Ray Lewis doesn't have to prove his worth to anybody. Twelve Pro Bowl selections in 16 seasons says it all, but Lewis isn't sitting tight.
The Baltimore Ravens linebacker has watched the NFL morph into a pass-happy carnival ride and he's tweaking his game to adjust to the aerial onslaught.
"My mentality was change with the game," Lewis told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday after the team's mandatory minicamp. "There are no more true, true, true, physical, physical fullbacks that are going to come at me and sledgehammer all day. So, just adjust to the game, and as you see guys get older in their careers, you see a lot of people don't do that. And that was my thing this year. It was like, 'All right, the game is changing like that. Everybody wants to go with all these little five-wides and all this different stuff.' Just change with the game, and that was kind of my thought process. ... If you've been in the game so long, you just learn to adjust to it."
Lewis shifted his famous offseason training regimen to include swimming and bike riding in recent months. The Sun reported Lewis, nearing his 37th birthday, took the field this week at the Ravens' mandatory minicamp looking leaner than last season, when he tipped the scales at 250 pounds.
We're a long way from Trent Dilfer leading a ground-oriented Baltimore offense to the Super Bowl in 2000, which in itself was an aberration. Last year's New York Giants ranked dead last in running the ball. The New England Patriots were 20th. Ground-and-pound remains effective -- the Houston Texans leaned heavily last season on Arian Foster and Ben Tate to rescue them out of a slew of quarterback injuries -- but we've seen a distinctive shift toward the pass.
Records are being shattered through the air and Lewis, instead of denying this, is tweaking his game along with it. If you've ever seen Lewis fawned over by ESPN and the Monday Night Football crew, you know he doesn't lack supporters. We're not going to go overboard here. After all, he's not the only defender learning to alter his on-field approach, but it's another example of what makes Lewis an ageless threat to offensive coordinators everywhere.