Smiling, even laughing, at questions about a report linking him to a company that purports to make performance-enhancers, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Wednesday he "never, ever took" the stuff.
Lewis described himself as "agitated," not angry, that the story has become part of the Super Bowl-week prelude to Baltimore's game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
He added that he's certain his teammates won't be distracted by the report in Sports Illustrated. The magazine said Lewis sought help from a company that says its deer-antler spray and pills contain a banned product connected to human growth hormone.
Lewis, 37, is the leading tackler in the NFL postseason after returning from a torn right triceps that sidelined him for 10 games.
In a private conversation with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, and later in the public setting of a news conference, Lewis distanced himself from Sports With Alternatives To Steroids. SI reported that company owner Mitch Ross recorded a call with Lewis hours after the player hurt his arm in an October game against Dallas. According to the report, Lewis asked Ross to send him deer-antler spray and pills, along with other items made by the company.
"It's so funny of a story because I never, ever took what he says or whatever I was supposed to do. And it's just sad once again that someone can have this much attention on a stage this big, where the dreams are really real," Lewis said Wednesday, wearing his white No. 52 Ravens jersey, gray sweatpants and a black hat with the team's purple logo. "I don't need it. My teammates don't need it. The 49ers don't need it. Nobody needs it."
Favre to work for NFL Network
Brett Favre is returning to the NFL — to work for the NFL Network.
The retired three-time NFL MVP quarterback will join the network's crew for daylong coverage of Sunday's league championship game.
Favre hasn't been heard from much since retiring after the 2010 season. He returns to the city where he led Green Bay to a 35-21 win against New England in the 1997 Super Bowl.
"I don't miss the grind and stress of day-to-day football, but I do miss my teammates and coaches," Favre said in an email to The Associated Press.
He chose to appear on "NFL GameDay Morning" because he could work with friends such as Steve Mariucci, Deion Sanders and Warren Sapp, and because the game is in New Orleans.
"Players and coaches who I have great memories of, and to do it from the field where I won a Super Bowl was a tough combination to pass up," Favre said.
Favre will join host Rich Eisen and several Super Bowl-winning players, including Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner and Sanders.
Referee faces scrutiny
In a season that began with criticism of replacement refs, the NFL found itself dealing with questions Wednesday about the qualifications of its lead official for the Super Bowl.
Jerome Boger, a member of NFL officiating crews for nine years, will be the referee Sunday in his first NFL title game amid accusations by a former official-turned-broadcaster that the league doctored his rating.
Boger has worked four divisional playoff games, including the 49ers' victory over Green Bay this year. He entered the league as a line judge in 2004, and was promoted to referee in 2006. He is the second black referee to work the title game, following Mike Carey five years ago.
His impending selection, which was announced Wednesday, was criticized this week by Jim Daopoulos, who was quoted in The New York Times as saying the grading of some officials, including Boger, was altered.
Daopoulos worked 11 years as an on-field official and 12 years as a supervisor before joining NBC as an analyst.
"I'm looking at the seven guys who are working in the Super Bowl, and to be quite honest, several of them should not be on the field," Daopoulos told the Times.
Daopoulos told the paper he believed the league predetermined who would work the Super Bowl.
The league and the referees' union have denied such claims, citing the evaluation process. Ray Anderson, NFL executive vice president of football operations, called the allegations "patently false and insulting to Jerome Boger."
The Associated Press