By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston


BOSTON (CBS) — Ray Lewis spent 17 years toiling in the NFL, building himself a surefire Hall of Fame resume in the process. Because of that work on the field, Lewis is now a full-time football analyst, working for ESPN and dispensing his thoughts every week on the events of the NFL.

Sometimes, that endeavor works out, and other times it does not.

And if there’s one thing that’s evident in the opinions expressed by the former linebacker, it’s this: thick, purple Baltimore Ravens blood still courses through his veins.

That much was clear on Tuesday, when he joined Stephen A. Smith’s show on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio. Lewis was talking about the controversial incompletion ruling on Dez Bryant over the weekend, and perhaps because he still feels the sting of seeing the Patriots beat his Ravens, Lewis took the opportunity to try to tear down Tom Brady.

(Please excuse the punctuation. It’s difficult to punctuate Ray Lewis sentences.)

“Listen, not to go all totally out of conscious [I believe he meant ‘context’], but just think about this, Stephen A., honest to God,” Lewis said. “When we — the first time we created something called a tuck rule, it’s the only reason we know — I’m just being honest! — the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, because of a tuck rule! There’s no such thing as a tuck rule! If the ball is in your hand, and I knock it out your hand, whether it’s going backwards, forwards, lateral, sideways, however it’s coming out, that’s a freaking fumble!

“But guess what we created? We created a freaking tuck rule!”

Hearing Lewis say that the tuck rule is the only reason we know about a man who’s won three Super Bowls, has twice been named NFL MVP (including the first-ever unanimous MVP), has made 10 Pro Bowls, has three times been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Year, owns the best winning percentage of all time and has been the one constant on the field in arguably the longest sustained run of success any one team has endured in NFL history … Stephen A. Smith had to ask: Did you really just say that?

“They don’t go to that championship game — they don’t go to that championship game if that tuck rule, if that ball is not called a tuck! That’s a fumble!” Lewis shouted. “Charles Woodson made that man clearly fumble the ball and they named it the tuck rule, something that we’ve never heard in today’s game. So now you’ve got to ask yourself: When did the legacy really start?”

Obviously, Lewis is saying that if Brady had not been bailed out by the tuck rule, then the Patriots don’t go on to face Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game, and they don’t beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI the following week, and then, who knows? Maybe the Patriots still would have won in 2003 and ’04, but Lewis believes it’s worth wondering if the Patriots dynasty ever would have come to be if not for that fateful ruling by referee Walt Coleman.

Of course, Lewis is leaving out the fact that despite his insistence that “there’s no such thing as a tuck rule,” the tuck rule did very much exist. It was put into place in 1999, and even after the famous play involving Brady, it remained on the books until 2013. In fact, the Patriots found themselves on the other side of the tuck rule earlier in that 2001 season, when a fumble was ruled to be an incomplete pass in a game they eventually lost to the Jets.

There’s also the fact that since that Tuck Rule Game, Tom Brady has been pretty damn good at football. Chances are, we would’ve heard of the guy by now, tuck rule or no tuck rule.

Yet it was, indeed, a real rule, despite Lewis’ belief that it appeared out of thin air to help the Patriots. Much like Terrell Suggs’ insistence that it was Brady’s injury and not Carson Palmer’s that prompted stricter rules for hitting quarterbacks, Lewis’ comments reek of contempt, born from that special kind of hatred that’s existed between the Ravens and the Patriots over the past few years.

But as Lewis tells it, he’s just a regular old historian.

“See man, look, I’m a football historian. I love moments. I love moments,” he said. “See, a lot of people watch just the TV from the game and say, ‘Oh, that’s wrong, that’s wrong!’ Go back to the moment from when things started. That’s what I’m telling you we’re creating. When I came into this league there was no such thing as a defenseless player. There was no such thing, Steve! … Man, there are certain rules that should not be allowed to be in this game of football. That’s just the bottom line.”

He continued: “I’m just saying, listen, listen, I only speak about this because I did this. See, it’s one thing when you hear people talk; I did this, Steve. And what I’m telling you is, there’s a bunch of rules in our game that does not belong in our game. … If I’m the commissioner, I leave the game alone. I tell people, ‘Don’t bring me no rules that does not make sense in my game!’ And a defenseless receiver, that don’t make sense in my rules, in my game.”

So there you have it. Lewis has spoken. Normally, the two future Hall of Famers speak pretty highly of one another. But when Lewis is asked to talk about the Cowboys, it’s apparently too difficult for him to resist the urge to try to tear down Brady.

You can listen to Ray Lewis’ commentary here.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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