In an interview on Dan Patrick’s radio show, Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic and XTRA Sports 910 said in no uncertain terms that Cardinals running back Edgerrin James is already gone.

Bickley said that James didn’t return to Arizona with the team, and that he fully expects James not to be back in 2009.

James is entering the final year of his contract, at a base salary of $5 million.

By cutting him, the Cardinals would create $5 million in 2009 cap space — which would push their bulge under the spending limit to at least $47 million.

James currently is 11th on the all-time rushing list, with 12,121 yards.  He trails Marcus Allen by 122 yards, and Jim Brown by only 191 yards.

Tim Hightower presumably will be the starting running back in 2009; backup J.J. Arrington is due to become an unrestricted free agent.


Ray Lewis doesn’t intend to give Ravens a discount

OWINGS MILLS — Star middle linebacker Ray Lewis doesn’t plan to grant the Baltimore Ravens the hometown discount that team owner Steve Bisciotti is hoping for.

And the impending unrestricted free agent and 10-time Pro Bowl selection said that he’s open to playing for the New York Jets or the Dallas Cowboys.

During an interview with the NFL Network while preparing for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, the two-time NFL De-fensive Player of the Year made it clear that he isn’t inclined to leave money on the table to remain in Baltimore.

"I don’t play less," Lewis said during a seven-minute interview. "If you don’t play less, you don’t take less. That’s just life."

Bisciotti and Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs have both recently broached the idea that Lewis could opt to stay with the Ravens by not maximizing his financial demands. And Bisciotti offered the opinion that Lewis can make more money in Baltimore than elsewhere.

"I’ve been hopeful forever that we’re going to work a deal," Bisciotti said last month. "I don’t think that other people are going to value Ray Lewis higher than we do. We know what he brings to the table. He’s showing at 33 that he’s capable of playing like a 28-year-old. So, I’ve got my wife on a budget already to try and save some money so we can sign him. ..

"Ray is not going2 0to settle for something that he thinks is way below. Are we going to get a hometown dis-count? I hope so, I really do. I hope I get a discount so I can find another Jimmy Leonhard with the money we save."

However, Lewis seems open to testing the market when the free agent signing period begins Feb. 27, provided that he hasn’t been re-signed by Baltimore. Of course, Lewis might just be saying that to get the Ravens to think that he’ll sign quickly if he makes it to free agency to try to get the team to increase their offer.

One team Lewis has been linked to in rumors is the Cowboys even though owner Jerry Jones has said that he in-tends to spend most of his money signing outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware to a contract extension.

Lewis has a history of clashing with controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens, who imitated Lewis’ trademark dance after scoring a touchdown against Baltimore in 2004 after his trade to the Ravens was nullified and he joined the Philadelphia Eagles. During interviews, Owens has brought up the murder charges filed and dropped against Lewis in 2000.

Nonetheless, Lewis, at least outwardly, doesn’t have an issue with Owens.

"I can definitely play with T.O," Lewis said. "I think T.O. is a great, great person. I just love him. I love his work ethic. I love everything about him. So, playing with T.O. is easy."

Easy probably doesn’t describe conquering the Cowboys’ rampant locker room chemistry problems, many of which involve Owens. However, Lewis struck a confident stance that all the team needs after a disastrous season is "one general," to unify the franchise.

"I don’t see all of that outside stuff that they’re talking about what goes on in Dallas," Lewis said. "I see Dallas as a great opportunity. It’s always been America’s Team. It’s just a great place to play football."

Meanwhile, Lewis regards New York as a strong potential destination largely due to the presence of former Ra-vens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan as the Jets’ newly-minted head coach.

Of course, there would likely be a lot of possible endorsement opportunities/extra income for Lewis in a big market like New York.

"That opportunity by itself looks attractive," Lewis said. "That just sounds right. It’s like, ‘Wow, if something does happen where you’re not back in Baltimore, the Jets wouldn’t be bad.’

"You go take a young Jets team that has a lot of talent across the board. You wiggle 52 into that equation, then that team goes from just being OK to ‘let’s go win this.’ That scenario is attractive."

Lewis emphasized that he hasn’t talked to Ryan yet about the Jets. A conversation like that would be a violation of NFL tampering rules even though that rule is rarely enforced.

Until Lewis is officially a free agent, the Ravens have exclusive negotiating rights.

Lewis didn’t shut the door on returning to Baltimore and extending his 13-year tenure after being drafted in the first round out of the University of Miami in 1996 prior to the Ravens’ inaugural season.

Lewis did seem bothered that the Ravens haven’t already addressed his contract status since this is the first time in his career that he has ever been allowed to approach free agency. In the past, the Ravens had always extended Lewis’ contract well in advance of free agency.

"The uncomfortable thing about me is that I’m even having this conversation," Lewis said. "With everything I’ve given to that city, I’ve always felt that this is one conversation that I would never have and didn’t want to have. That scenario in Baltimore, that’s nothing I don’t love about my city."


Vilma Waiting On Saints To Make An Offer Will Listen To Other Teams As Well

Soon to be New Orleans Saints free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma was just on Pro Football Central Radio Show and had some interesting things to say about being a free agent. Vilma states that he would love to resign with the Saints but things are going really slow as of now. He also states that he does hope to sign back with the Saints,its his first choice but he is definitely listening to offers with any team that has a 4-3 defensive scheme.Vilma also comments that he is a huge fan of Gregg Williams and would love to play for him in New Orleans.


Ray Lewis calls Jets scenario 'attractive'

A week ago at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Ray Lewis refused to discuss his impending free agency as he made the rounds on "radio row" in the media center. On Wednesday night at the Pro Bowl, he was a chatterbox in an interview with Jamie Dukes of the NFL Network.

Maybe the warm Hawaiian breezes loosened him up. (Or a Mai Tai or two.) Or maybe his agent told him to start playing the posturing game. Anyway, the Ravens' linebacker had nice some things to say about the Jets, who - in case you've been sleeping for a month - are coached by Lewis' former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan.

Lewis spoke highly of Ryan, and when asked about the prospect of a reunion in New York, Lewis said, "That opportunity by itself seems attractive. It sounds right. It's like, wow, if something does happen where I'm not back in Baltimore, hmm, the Jets wouldn't be bad."

Discussing the possibility of playing in the No. 1 media market, Lewis said that would be a positive, not a negative. Referring to New York, Lewis said "it's a young Jets team that has a lot of talent across the board where if you (add) 52 in that equation, that team goes from being okay to 'Let's go win this.' That scenario by itself is always attractive."

Chew on that, Jets fans.


Clinton, Colt swimming with the sharks

It’s impossible to not pay attention any time Clinton Portis talks. He’s either in funny gear (though not in a few years) or ripping his coach or ... talking about swimming with sharks.

Yes, sharks. The kind that are more menacing than blitzing linebackers.

Portis is in Hawaii for Sunday’s Pro Bowl, but clearly has other things on his mind other than football. Redskins quarterback Colt Brennan also is in Hawaii, where he played college football.

“Me and Colt were talking about going swimming with some sharks,” Portis told reporters in Hawaii. “Get in a little tank and do a little shark adventure. I’m excited about it. Colt is setting it up. Hopefully we get to do it.”

Certainly the Redskins are hopeful that he gets that chance as well. Nothing like your star running back hanging around tiger sharks. We’re not sure if there’s a clause in his contract prohibiting this sort of, uh, adventure.

“I mean, I’ll be in the cage,” he said. “If a shark bites through a cage and they can’t pull me up in time, I deserve to void out my contract, bro.”

The next question has to be: is he serious? With Portis it’s always hard to tell.


Ray Lewis: 'I see Dallas as a great opportunity'

The Cowboys are rumored to be interested in Ravens ILB Ray Lewis. The 10-time Pro Bowler made it clear that he's intrigued by the thought of playing for the Cowboys.

In an interview with the NFL Network (via the Baltimore Sun via Pro Football Talk), Lewis said he wouldn't take a hometown discount to stay in Baltimore. He mentioned the Cowboys and Jets, who just hired ex-Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan as head coach, as attractive options.

Lewis declared that the Cowboys need "one general" when asked about the dysfunctional Valley Ranch atmosphere. He said that needs to be a player, not a coach. And he obviously believes he'd be a great fit for the job.

"I don't see all of that outside stuff that they're talking about what goes on in Dallas," Lewis said. "I see Dallas as a great opportunity. It's always been America's Team. It's just a great place to play football."


Duncan: Perez needs to improve slider

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz reports St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said RP Chris Perez has to refine his slider and make it more consistent. He said Perez throws a good slider sometimes, but he needs to throw a good slider all the time. Duncan said hitters are happy when Perez throws his slider because it's nowhere near as good as his fastball. Duncan said it's no guarantee Perez will begin the season in the majors. He also praised Perez's work ethic and will to improve.


Positions of interest among NL teams

Florida Marlins: First base

Gaby Sanchez will go to spring training as the favorite to be the first baseman, replacing Mike Jacobs, who was traded to Kansas City in late October. Sanchez's past numbers indicate he will be more in the Mark Grace line-drive-to-the-gap type of offensive player, rather than a power-hitting corner guy.


Lewis likes Hawaii just fine

Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens' 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker, said it is "sad" that the NFL All-Star game is being moved from Hawaii for at least one year. Next year's game is in Miami and Lewis, who lives in Florida, said he might not play in it if selected.

"Yeah. Seriously. That's no vacation going to your same city," said Lewis, who played college football at Miami. "I live in Florida, so why am I going to drive my car and say 'Hey, I think I'll go play in the Pro Bowl right down the road.'

"I just don't see that as being as exciting as an honor coming to Hawaii, really just learning things new. Seeing something different. You know, because what you have to understand is, wherever the Pro Bowl is at, somebody plays in that city, lives in that city. You don't want to go have a good time in that same city. You want to take your family and go on a vacation."

Next year's Pro Bowl is set for Miami after 30 years in Hawaii and will be played a week before the Super Bowl. Beyond 2010, the game's location is uncertain, although the Hawaii Tourism Authority is in negotiations with the NFL to bring it back to the islands.

The NFL has said it would like to keep Hawaii in the rotation.

"Sad. Sad day," Lewis added. "I just look at it as a great opportunity, when you work so hard in all these different states and all these different cities and things like that, and your reward is to be voted to the Pro Bowl in this getaway. Get away from your normal life. Hawaii is probably one of the greatest places on this Earth and just to have the connection of being over here, to be away from everybody else ... that's the reward. To think about it never being here again, that's not a good thing."


Thunder interested in Kings' John Salmons?

The Thunder have "expressed a strong interest" in trading for Kings swingman John Salmons, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The Thunder has offered the $4.8 million expiring contract of veteran forward Joe Smith, and might also include some combination of younger players or draft picks. The Blazers were previously reported to have interest in Salmons, and it sounds like he's one of the Kings players most likely to be traded.


Antrel Rolle has da 'U' solution

In the days leading up to Super Bowl 43, Arizona Cardinals corner back Antrel Rolle did the media rounds and gave an interview to 560 WQAM in South Florida. Rolle, a native of Miami and a former player at the University of Miami, was an All-American when the Hurricanes were more of a force on the college scene.

"The Big Dog" Joe Rose probed Rolle about a number of things at the beginning of the interview, but he eventually got on the topic of the struggling Hurricanes.

"These boys are hurting. Most of all, they're hurting themselves and they're hurting the program. I think they need to get that attitude back. Go steal a couple of cars, go break into a couple of houses. Do whatever it takes just to get that attitude back. Go out there and do something bad, it doesn't matter. We'll forgive. Just bring that attitude back to the 'U'. We need it."

I'm going to give Rolle the benefit of the doubt and think some of that can be taken with a grain of salt. Rolle wants Miami to get its swagger back. He wants them have a modern version of deplaning in camouflage at the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. You know, when Miami was labeled the "evil" side of the war between the Canes and Penn State. I really hope he doesn't want his Miami brothers to actually commits crimes.

But Rolle has to be cautious.

First, it was just three years ago when Miami brawled with Florida International University in what became a public embarrassment. That type of action is related to stealing cars, breaking into houses, etc. It's not the image ANYONE wants.

Second, Rolle was arrested in 2004 just before his senior season, for allegedly hitting a police officer. The charges were dropped, but again, you never want that kind of press.

There is such a thing as controlled swagger. Start winning football games and you can show a little flavor to get that Miami attitude back. Until then, you can steal all the cars you want, but a 7-6 record will just get you laughed at.

But I see why Rolle is stepping up to the plate and saying something. Miami is 26-25 since Rolle left for the NFL. In Rolle's four years in Coral Gables, the Hurricanes went 44-6 and won a national title. Not too shabby. Rolle called guys like Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Jonathan Vilma, Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Bryant McKinnie, Kellen Winslow II and Sean Taylor, among others.

Miami is young right now, and Randy Shannon definitely needs some time to develop that talent. He's definitely bringing in some high-profile prospects, and if they don't stop being mediocre soon, I think you'll again see some changes.


Super Bowl Weekend: Behind the scenes with Jarrett Payton

Friend of the blog (suntimes.com) Jarrett Payton was in Tampa last week for the Super Bowl festivities, specifically to give out the NFL award that bears his father's name -- the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Per usual, Jarrett documented the occasion for his highly entertaining Peeze blog.

Jarrett was on the field for the game, and in his latest video blog post of his game-day experience, watch out for cameos by Antrel Rolle (Jarrett's former Miami teammate), Lynn Swann, John Elway, Roger Goodell and Edgerrin James among others:

Regarding the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Payton told Sports Pros(e), "Giving the award is a wonderful feeling. Just knowing my dad is looking down on all this is great to know."

Check out Jarrett's interviews with award-winner Kurt Warner, finalist Brian Dawkins and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:


49ers to put Gore in two-running back system?

49ers GM Scot McCloughan strongly hinted in a Q&A on the team's website that he wants to use a two-running back system going forward.

New OC Jimmy Raye thinks Frank Gore is a 25-carry per game back, but McCloughan said "I think nowadays you have to have that type of (two-back) system...especially with our (physical) approach on offense. You don’t just need a change of pace guy...you need two backs that can have production." The Niners have enough holes to fill that a new back is unlikely to top their priority list. Perhaps they'll draft another late-rounder like Thomas Clayton.


More Minutes for Jones

Swingman James Jones' role is expected to increase while Cook is sidelined.

Spoelstra met with Jones on Monday and said he expects the sharpshooter to become more active.

''Just to clarify, just to make sure he knew his role with me and so that there wasn't any confusion, he's got the green light from three,'' Spoelstra said. ``I'm not really concerned that James is going to take a bad shot. If he errs on anything, he errs on moving the ball too much.''


NFLU Super Bowl XLIII Photos

Check out Super Bowl XLIII photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

One Hurricane To Represent at the NFL Combine

Bruce Johnson was the sole Miami Hurricane Invited to the 2009 NFL Combine, a place where in the recent past Miami Hurricanes have outnumbered every other school. He will be in Group 10 wearing number DB26.

Good luck to Bruce. We're sure he will be getting some advice from his cousin, former first round pick and current DB of the Seattle Seahawks Kelly Jennings.

Immokalee grad James talks about Super Bowl experience

TAMPA — As the Pittsburgh Steelers continued to rejoice following their victory in the 43rd Super Bowl, Edgerrin James grabbed a personal sized pepperoni pizza on his way out of the Arizona Cardinals locker room and headed for the team bus, parked outside Raymond James Stadium.

On his way to the bus, James expressed his mixed emotions about finally, in his 10th NFL season, playing for the league’s championship — and coming up short, 27-23.

“We didn’t have many opportunities,” James, a 1996 Immokalee High School graduate, said of running the ball. “We were playing from behind, so you don’t get many opportunities.”

James, 30, led the Cardinals with nine carries for 33 yards. He also caught four passes for 28 yards.

“Every player who plays wants to be a part of it,” said James, who walked as he talked, in a hurry to get on the bus and move on to meet with members of his family.

More than 200 friends and family members of James traveled from Immokalee and Orlando and elsewhere to be a part of the atmosphere. Only about 55 of them had tickets to the game. The rest watched the game from the parking lot of nearby Jesuit High School.

“It’s good to have support,” James said. “It’s good to have nice, community support and to have the whole family come out.”

One longtime friend, Pierre Rutledge, cut short his vacation in the Virgin Islands by a day.

“Two months ago, who would have thought?” Rutledge said of the Cardinals reaching the Super Bowl. “I cut the trip short so I could be a part of history. Saturday afternoon, I flew from St. Thomas to Fort Lauderdale, drove to Orlando and got there right about 10:30 p.m.

“This is big. He deserves it, and we want to witness it.”

James has one year remaining on his four-year, $30 million contract with the Cardinals. He said he wanted to think things over during the offseason about his future. He wants to play next season, but it may not be with the Cardinals, who might release James.

In the meantime, James planned on having his normal offseason — which means spending more time with his extended family.

“I’m home already,” James said. “I’m always home.

“It’s one of those things where I’m used to being home. I’m used to being around everybody.”

With that, James boarded the bus, leaving his Super Bowl experience behind him.


Too on One: Gabe Watson

Too-on-One spent a few minutes with Cardinals defensive tackle Gabe Watson to get the dirt on his teammates:

Q: Who’s the best dresser on the team?
A: Antrel Rolle. He’s a clean-cut guy. Everything is neat about him.

Q: Who has the best car?
A: Edgerrin James, with that Lamborghini. That’s my favorite car. He actually called me and asked how to put it in gear. I told him everything about it.

Q: Who is the coaches’ pet?
A: Calais Campbell. Sometimes in meetings the coaches will say something that might not be right, and he’ll agree with it. Then one of us will say something that all the players agree with, and he’ll agree with the coach. I’m like, 'C’mon man, whose side are you on?’


Broncos will shuffle LB Williams yet again

One of the repercussions of Denver’s transition to a 3-4 defense is yet another change of positions for D.J. Williams, who has not played at the same spot in back-to-back seasons since 2004-05. Sources say having Williams, who is athletic enough to play inside or outside in a 3-4, gives the Broncos some flexibility in the draft and free agency. If the team decides to use an early pick on a linebacker, it won’t have to stew over whether to take someone who can play inside or outside. Instead, Denver can take the one they deem the best available, regardless of position, and then alter Williams’ position accordingly. The constant changes have made things more challenging for Williams, who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, but he has played well no matter where he lines up and he doesn’t seem shaken by it.


WRs: Who's your top five for '09?

Andre Johnson, Texans. Johnson led the league in receptions (115) and yards (1,575), but most importantly, he stayed healthy. Johnson had seven games with 10 or more receptions and eight games with 100 yards or more. Who will ever forget his 207-yard effort against the Titans in Week 15?

Reggie Wayne, Colts. Wayne had a relatively quiet year, with 1,145 yards and six TDs. Wayne, however, has five straight 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, and he's averaged eight TDs in that span. Being Peyton Manning's favorite target has to count for something.


For James and Cardinals, A Disappointment

Sometimes the rich just get richer, huh?

Not that Pittsburgh didn't have a great team this year with a defense that even Naples High (joking) couldn't beat -- but the sentimental part of you wanted Arizona, didn't you?

And what an ending. As a sportswriter thinking of deadline, it about makes you throw up that cold gameday hot dog you made the mistake of eating ...

Anyway on from that lovely thought ...

It has been a whirlwind here in Tampa. So much to say and so little time to say it here in the big white media tent outside Raymond James Stadium -- no it doesn't feel like a wedding reception this time. So I'll try to focus on the hometown boy, Edgerrin James.

Clearly a disappointment not only on the team level but also on the personal contribution level for James. He finished his first Super Bowl with just 33 rushing yards on nine carries. Yes, nine.

He wouldn't talk about it tonight, understandably, but James is going to find a more run-friendly option next year. He has been around this league a long time and done a lot of things, but he's clearly still hungry and feels he has more left to do in this league.

"I don't know ... we'll sit down and figure it all out. You need to give yourself a few days to digest this," he said after the game.

But he's not giving up on a return trip to the Super Bowl.

"Oh yeah, I'll be playing football," James said.

Was touching after the game to see James and Kurt Warner sit next to each other in the locker room, heads bent in discussion, immediately after the game. Both have done a lot in the NFL. Given their backgrounds -- some could consider James and Warner pretty opposite -- but I think that would be misleading. Maybe James isn't quite as media-friendly as Warner, and maybe it took him some time in the league to mature from the reputation he carried with him from the University of Miami, but I keep thinking about what James did for his family and for the city of Immokalee with this Super Bowl.

"A ton of people came up here, but as far as actual tickets I got about 50," he said during the post-game interviews. "I'm happy we got a lot of people in the game ... I'm glad they were able to enjoy it."

James didn't do what he wanted to do on the field tonight. Maybe he even disappointed himself or some people watching him.
But 50 tickets. Regardless of anything else, that's an accomplishment and it says something about the man who went to the work to get them.


Cards forget James

The Arizona Cardinals trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers 10-0 in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLIII before their high-powered offense finally found a spark.

That spark came from Immokalee native Edgerrin James, and he helped provide momentum that allowed the Cardinals to stay close enough to the Steelers to provide a close finish among the greatest in Super Bowl history.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals produced their first scoring drive of the game. On the drive, James rushed once and caught three passes helping set up Kurt Warner’s touchdown pass to Ben Patrick. The TD cut the Pittsburgh lead to 10-7, and may have prevented the Steelers from running away with the game.

Earlier in the first quarter, James recovered a Kurt Warner that could have given the Steelers the ball deep in Arizona territory.

In the third quarter, James carried the ball five times - three plays in a row at one point - and caught another pass.

However the Cardinals didn’t call James’ number once in the fourth quarter, with rookie Tim Hightower getting the nod in James’ place. Hightower played the majority of plays when Arizona used a running back in the final quarter, targeted for two passes and catching one. Hightower had no rushes in the fourth quarter.

James started the game as the Cardinals running back. James finished Super Bowl XLIII with 9 rushes for 33 yards and 4 receptions for 28 yards.
By playing in the game, James became the first Collier County graduate ever to play in a Super Bowl. While James failed to earn a Super Bowl Championship of his own, he already possesses a Super Bowl ring. Despite leaving the Indianapolis Colts prior to their Super Bowl winning season in 2006, the Colts still sent James a championship ring as a gesture of thanks for his years of service to Indianapolis before he departed for Arizona.


James Jones Hits 300

Miami Heat Swingman James Jones played in his 300th career game on Monday night. Jones scored nine points in 24 minutes of action in the Heat's easy win over the LA Clippers. Congrats to James!

Lewis: Future with Ravens 'nobody else's business'

TAMPA, FLA. - In his first comments to the Baltimore media this offseason, Ray Lewis yesterday was noncommittal about his chances of staying with the Ravens.

Lewis, 33, will become an unrestricted free agent in 29 days unless the Ravens use the franchise tag on him or the Pro Bowl linebacker strikes a new deal with the team. It would mark the first time in Lewis' 13-year career that the face of the Ravens' franchise reached free agency.

"What I'm thinking, nobody needs to know," said Lewis, who was at the Super Bowl promoting Xbox 360 and the Madden Bowl. "I've given my prayers to God. It's between me and him. It's nobody else's business. That's between me and God."

Lewis' situation likely will go down as the biggest offseason story line in Ravens history. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti as well as former and current teammates have talked publicly about Lewis' future.

At his season-ending news conference, Bisciotti said he has been "hopeful forever" that the Ravens would sign Lewis to a new deal and didn't foresee using the franchise tag to keep him off the free-agent market.

Asked about the franchise tag, Lewis shrugged his shoulders.

"I just hope they do whatever is best for the organization," he said. "Take me out of it."

So, Lewis wouldn't mind the tag?

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It's whatever God has in his plans."

Players designated with the franchise tag are forced to accept a one-year contract at a salary based on the average of the NFL's five highest-paid players at that position.

Fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs recently said all three free-agent linebackers (Lewis, Suggs and Bart Scott) could stay together if they gave the Ravens "a home discount."

"What he really is talking about is a brotherhood," Lewis said.

"That's the reason why we played so passionately. There's a commitment to each other. A lot of times in life, you don't like to see that go. But it's business. It happens."

Bisciotti also suggested the possibility of receiving a hometown discount from the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Asked whether he intended to test the free-agent market if he isn't franchised, Lewis said: "It's irrelevant. I haven't had any emotions about it. For me to talk about it, that would be selfish."

Lewis had one of his best seasons in recent years, finishing with 117 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

But this season was one of Lewis' favorites because of what the Ravens were able to accomplish.

"This was one of the rides because you had doubts early about whether the coaching could mesh and whether [ Joe] Flacco could play," Lewis said with a smile.

"As a team, we said: 'Let's just go play and see how good we could be. Everybody is picking us to be last in the division anyway, so why not go play?' That's what's fun - being the underdog."

Though the Ravens fell one game short of reaching the Super Bowl, the championship memories hit Lewis yesterday.

He returned to Tampa, the site of the Ravens' Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants eight years ago. He said he could still envision the confetti falling.

"Once you're a champion, you never forget that feeling," he said.

Lewis also made the point that whatever happens, he'll never forget his relationship with the fans of Baltimore.

"I love my city, know that," Lewis said. "It will always be my city."


Hester vows not to let pressure affect him next season

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – As each week passed during the 2008 season without Devin Hester returning a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown, the pressure intensified and he started to press.

With a record-breaking 11 TD returns in his first two NFL seasons, Hester had set the bar so high that he needed a stepladder to reach it. He also had signed a long-term contract extension at the start of training camp, which ratcheted up already high expectations.

During an interview on WSCR-AM 670 Friday in Tampa at the site of Super Bowl XLIII, Hester vowed that he would no longer allow outside influences to affect him.

“This year I felt I had a lot of pressure on myself, contract-wise, and then the past two years the high expectations I had on my back,” Hester told Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley on the Score.

“But I was trying to please man instead of the man up above. I found myself trying to please everybody and sidetracking myself [instead of] giving all the glory to God. This year I’m not out to try to please man. I’m going to go ahead and please the man up above.”

Hester also said that he believes he's capable of being the Bears' No. 1 receiver in 2009 and that he felt much more comfortable on offense late in the 2008 season than he had previously.

Hester caught 25 passes for 347 yards in the last six games after registering 26 receptions for 318 yards in his first nine contests. In the finale in Houston, he equaled a career high with six catches for 85 yards, his second-highest yardage total of the year.

“Toward the end of the season I really started understanding the game on the offensive side of the ball as far as reading coverages and knowing when the ball is coming to me,” Hester said.

“It was just [a matter of] getting the feel of the game. You can’t really try to overplay every play, but just be relaxed and play the game that you know and everything will speak for itself. Don’t go out and try to do too much; just relax and play football. That’s what you get paid for.

“Just go out and have fun. When you understand the game and start having fun, that’s when all the big plays come.”

Hester also revealed that he thinks the Arizona Cardinals will upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

“I know the Steelers will try to put a lot of pressure on Kurt Warner,” Hester said. “He has a lot of experience in this game. He’s been in this game for over 10 years, and that’s the type of ballgame he wants to have. There’s going to be a lot of quick slants and hot routes that could go the distance.”

Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin is upset with his contract situation and may seek a trade in the offseason. Hester deftly sidestepped a question about the possibility of the Bears acquiring Boldin.

“Right now we’re in the process of gradually getting better,” Hester said. “We made a couple changes with the coaching staff. I know we’re going to go out and get a couple players who are going to help out and try to get back to where we were when we were in the Super Bowl.”