||HEADLINE NEWS - Team Note Book
Monday - 1/8/2001
Ravens LB wins war against friend
By Vic Carucci
NFL Insider for NFL.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn) - Ray Lewis had finished changing into his civilian clothes and was gathering his travel bags to depart the visitor's dressing room in Adelphia Coliseum Sunday when, suddenly, he noticed EddieGeorge walking toward him. Given what had gone on between them on the field for the better part of three hours, you half expected one to say to the other, "Let's finish this right here, right now!" and commence brawling. Instead, they locked in a huge embrace. Warmly. Sincerely. Like the very best of friends.
The moment was quiet, with most of the discussion coming from an exchange of glances rather than words. Finally, Lewis said, "I'll give you a call," and they went their separate ways. It was hard to believe, but these were the same two players who seemed to be waging the nastiest of grudge matches in the middle of the divisional playoff game between Lewis' Baltimore Ravens and George's Tennessee Titans.
As always, Lewis, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, refused to give up an inch from his middle linebacker position. As always, George, a candidate for league MVP after another dominant season, ran with the football and caught passes with every ounce of heart and soul he could give. Fierce collisions were inevitable. And they happened with great regularity after the opening kickoff. Pads on pads, shoulders on sternums, bodies hitting each other and the ground with the sort of intensity that can be felt in the highest levels of the stands and in front of televisions thousands of miles away. It wasn't long before all of this competitive running and tackling became
personal. Soon there was pushing and shoving, screaming and yelling. "You're talking about two premier players, two heavyweight fighters slugging it out, taking the body blows and coming up for more," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That was worth the price of admission right there." It was.
And after more than three rounds, I mean quarters, of Lewis versus George, it was difficult to tell who was ahead on the scorecard. The Adelphia scoreboard showed the Ravens holding a 17-10 lead, thanks to a blocked field goal by Keith Washington that Anthony Mitchell returned 90 yards for a touchdown. But Lewis versus George was pretty much a draw.
That is, until there were just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. On second-and-14 from the Tennessee 47, quarterback Steve McNair delivered a short pass to George, who was being single-covered by Lewis. George bobbled the ball, which was thrown a little behind him. The alert Lewis snatched it away, then ran 50 yards for his first NFL touchdown, which proved to be the knockout punch of the Ravens' 24-10 victory. Lewis described his one-on-one competition with George "a great war," and who could argue? Besides his interception and touchdown, Lewis was credited with a game-high 12 tackles. George finished with 91 rushing yards - including a two-yard touchdown that capped the game's opening drive - and a game-high eight receptions for 52 yards. "He's their offensive cornerstone and I am our defensive cornerstone, " Lewis said. "We went at it good today."
Good, bad, and ugly.
"He was talking, I was talking," George said. "That's how the game is played." But when it was over, they hugged. When it was over, Lewis used his eyes to tell George he knew the feeling of a season ending sooner than it should. And George did the same to convey that, while his defending AFC champions were finished playing until next summer's preseason, he wished Lewis the best in next weekend's conference-championship game in Oakland.
"We are great friends off the field," Lewis said. "But when we are on the field, it is just two gladiators going after one another."