NEW ORLEANS — Twelve years after his first appearance in the Super Bowl was marred by questions about his legal problems in Atlanta, Ray Lewis was back on that stage Tuesday, again being asked to defend his integrity and reputation.
Just hours after a Sports Illustrated story surfaced that alleged that Lewis used a banned substance to accelerate his return from a torn triceps this season, the Ravens' linebacker emphatically denied using performance-enhancing drugs in an hour-long session with reporters at Super Bowl XLVII media day.
"Every test I've ever took in the NFL, there's never been a question if I ever even thought about using anything," said Lewis, who has announced he will retire after Sunday's game against the 49ers. "To even entertain stupidity like that, tell him to try and get his story out with somebody else."
"Him" is Mitch Ross, a co-owner of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids. Ross told SI that Lewis requested products aimed at speeding his recovery from the triceps injury, suffered Oct. 14. Lewis came back for the Jan. 6 playoff opener against Indianapolis and has led the league in tackles during the playoffs.
One of the products Lewis was allegedly using was a deer antler velvet spray, which the magazine reported including the substance IGF-1, which is banned by the league. Lewis denied using the spray. Ross told the Baltimore Sun over the phone that he provided a recovery protocol for Lewis after his surgery.
"It's a shame that Ray is denying taking it," Ross said. "The NFL is uneducated. This is not a steroid. It's not illegal. Ray is not a cheater."
Ross said the deer antler velvet spray with IGF-1 is akin to human growth hormone, but is naturally produced in food products. Team officials, including coach John Harbaugh, defended Lewis, saying he has never failed a drug test.
MOSS CLAIMS 'GREATEST' TITLE: San Francisco's Randy Moss called himself "the greatest receiver ever to play this game" during media day.
Moss was once the NFL's most dominant receiver, but now he's 35, on the downside of a career that seemed over a year ago. After playing for three teams in 2010, he didn't play last season. He then joined the 49ers this offseason but with one big caveat: Moss would no longer be the center of the offense.
He understands, but doesn't necessarily like his role.
"I've always considered myself a playmaker," he said. "Blocking? Yeah, I understand that's part of the game. Me going out to be decoy? Yeah, I know that's part of the game. But for me not to be out here making plays is something I just don't understand."
Then Moss — second all-time in touchdown catches (156), third in receiving yards (15,292) and ninth in catches (982) — remembered why he's here.
"If that's going to win me a ring," he said, "yeah, I accept that."