Even a decade after his retirement, Ray Lewis still has stories to tell. One such story involves Tom Brady. It's a quick story, but it tells a lot about what it was like to be on the field during a game. Here's what Lewis said on the Rich Eisen Show:
"Every play! I'm not playing with Brady. He know though, but that's the thing that Julian, like, that's what we talk about when Brady, he comes to the line, I'm saying, I'm telling you what you runnin'. It's run. I'm telling you where it's coming. "
In other words, for every play, Lewis would talk smack to his opponents. It isn't like it appears on television, where most players seem to be silent on the field. Some players love to talk to their opponents and get into their minds.
Lewis was one such player. As a defensive linebacker, part of his job was to identify the play that was coming.
Once he knew that, he could play with anticipation. If he saw only two receivers, he could guess that it was a run. He could also tell which holes the team had had the most success running through, so he's prepared to plug those gaps.
Why did Ray Lewis tell opponents like Tom Brady which play was coming?
Even when facing Brady, Lewis knew about the offense's tendencies. He would, sometimes, become so confident in his knowledge that he'd guess the play for Brady. Sometimes, of course, he was wrong. However, most times, he was right. In the minds of his opponents, the times he was right, certainly, outweighed the times he was wrong.
They may worry that this was the play he was going to guess correctly. If Lewis was able to get his opponent's thought process to this point, he knew he had them right where he wanted them. The goal of mind games is to make the opponent uncomfortable. Once they become uncomfortable, they make mistakes. Even if it's a play they've run a thousand times, doubt can creep in and be fatal.
Once doubt seeps into the mind of the quarterback, he starts to throw more emotionally and uses his eyes less. Put simply, he doesn't trust what he is seeing. When this happens, offenses grind to a halt. Those who have played the Madden video game online can agree that the same phenomena occurs on the virtual gridiron.
Of course, online players can mute each other. When on the field, there is no way for a team to mute their opponents. Lewis' defense was masterful towards the end of his career, when he eventually won the Super Bowl in 2012.
From 2008 to 2012, the linebacker only had one season in which his team was ranked lower than the top three in the league in terms of points allowed, according to Pro Football Reference.