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Thanks to the Sun’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. Goodell’s no-nonsense approach may have changed history here in Baltimore. Goodell’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 Rolle’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 couldn’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 he’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 that’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?
We’ll never know how Roger Goodell may have dealt with Ray’s situation nor will we ever know how such a decision may have changed NFL history and certainly the history of Baltimore sports. Yet it’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 Goodell’s wrath will affect how teams build their rosters. After all, the salary cap provides no exemptions for habitual thugs. 
Just ask the Titans and Bengals.
Article first appeared on April 13, 2007

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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