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Thanks to the Sunâ€™s Rick Maese, I had to re-write this column today. Seems that we were on the same train of thought when it comes to Roger Goodell.
I too had to wonder how he may have dealt with Ray Lewis after the murder trial was plea bargained. Goodellâ€™s no-nonsense approach may have changed history here in Baltimore. Goodellâ€™s style may also have impacted Jamal Lewis differently and even Chris McAlister may have been dealt with more sternly during his tumultuous years.
Samari Rolleâ€™s domestic issues could have been penalized more severely and who knows how B.J. Sams will ultimately be dealt with.
But back to Ray, we all have our suspicions and theories about what happened that January 2000 night in Atlanta. Something very ugly went down. Maybe Ray had some unfamiliar acquaintances hanging around with him. You know the type that wants to be seen with a celebrity because he or she yearns for those morsels of celebrity perks.
And maybe they had a few drinks and things got out of hand.
In the heat of the moment Ray may have panicked. In a flash all that he had done to get to where he was in life at that point was in jeopardy. The promises he made to his Mom, his friends were about to be broken. The home that he delivered to his Mom — snatched by the darkness and violence of that chilly evening.
And so they flee.
A little time goes by and with it more lucid thoughts arrive. Ray eventually chooses to do the right thing and while he is guilty of obstructing justice according to the law, perhaps what he really did was nothing different than any of us would have done in that situation — make a bad decision fueled by fear. Fueled by an opportunity cost that most of us couldnâ€™t imagine.
Since that night Ray Lewis has removed himself completely from social settings that could even remotely place him in a situation like the one in Atlanta. He has been a model citizen and he has been active in the community with children. He learned his lesson and heâ€™s even helped the families of the two victims of that double murder.
Yet some here in town jokingly refer to him as a murderer while many in other cities flat out perceive him as one.
And thatâ€™s a label he may never shake.
Ray Lewis is a man who today professes deep religious and spiritual convictions. Yet some wonder if his passion is sincere. Their opinions are tainted by the reputation of double murderer.
Imagine if everything you did was scarred by a dreadful mistake — a mistake that any of us could have made under the influence of fear.
Of course the logical thing to say is to never put yourself in situations like Ray did that night. But who among us hasn’t done something that is shameful?
Weâ€™ll never know how Roger Goodell may have dealt with Rayâ€™s situation nor will we ever know how such a decision may have changed NFL history and certainly the history of Baltimore sports. Yet itâ€™s safe to say that the new sheriff in town has little tolerance for nonsense and repeat offenders like Pacman Jones and Chris Henry better take a hard look at how Ray Lewis has matured after staring his personal abyss squarely in the face.
Clearly the potential for Goodellâ€™s wrath will affect how teams build their rosters. After all, the salary cap provides no exemptions for habitual thugs.