Ray’s New Role

He was one of the most intense and passionate players ever, but can Ray Lewis succeed on TV?

Richard Deitsch
· More from Richard·

Ray Lewis squares up on the question as if it were a helpless running back. How good can he be as an NFL analyst? There is no hesitation in his voice. He is set to invade your home this September.

“I honestly think the sky is the limit for me,” says Lewis, who was hired by ESPN in February, after he capped his 17-year Ravens career with a Super Bowl victory. “A lot of people have only been introduced to my football mentality—and it is hard to get people to understand the football mentality unless you’ve lived it. I think I am totally different when I’m not thinking about battle, and I’m going to try to be the best at this. When people learn my personality and actually get into my head, they are going to be surprised by the way I think on an everyday and every-second basis.”

Every network with an NFL contract maintains a list of current coaches and players who would make good broadcasters. Given his passion for the sport and his skill at oratory, Lewis has long rated high on those lists—some television insiders believe he could do for the NFL what Charles Barkley did for NBA telecasts. Lewis met with other networks, but ESPN appealed to him for a variety of reasons, including the prospect of non-Sunday work assignments. One of his requirements for a broadcasting career was flexibility in his schedule so he can attend the football games of his son, Ray Lewis III, who’ll be a freshman running back/defensive back this fall at his father’s alma mater, the University of Miami.

Lewis’s ESPN schedule affords him that option, but he will be busy. He’ll travel to the Monday Night Football site each week to serve as an analyst for Monday Night Countdown. He’ll also work eight Sundays at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn., appearing on the network’s Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show during the season. He’ll debut the morning of Sunday, Sept. 8, when he joins the cast of Countdown. Lewis will be in Landover, Md., the following day for his Monday Night Countdown spot, leading into the Eagles-Redskins game at FedEx Field.

I would come from the most honest point ever. Period. I don’t care if it is wrong or right. If you are supposed to catch the pass, catch the pass.

In June, Lewis started working at his home in Baltimore with an ESPN talent coach, learning how to sit for a broadcast, how to breathe and pause properly, and how to modulate his voice levels at the right moments. Those are mechanics, and all can be taught. But how does Lewis view delivering criticism when criticism is warranted? The best former athletes in the booth—ESPN’s Jay Bilas and NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, for instance—always say what they see, knowing it may cost them relationships.

“I would come from the most honest point ever,” Lewis says. “Period. I don’t care if it is wrong or right. If you are supposed to catch the pass, catch the pass. But it is a human mistake and not the end of the world. Everyone has ups and downs, flaws, wrongs and rights. I’m not there to judge. I’m there to pay attention and give insight on the game and on each player and coach.”

And what about controversial issues away from the field? Those are usually left to the pregame shows, as NFL television partners are reluctant to discuss such matters during game broadcasts. That means Lewis will be asked to address the spate of NFL arrests this offseason, most notably the Aaron Hernandez murder charge. He says he will be cautious in talking about individual cases. “What you are comfortable with is what you know,” he says. “If you don’t know something, don’t speak about it. Bad rumors and bad messages get out when people identify with something they have no clue about. You can only speak from true experience. If a kid is not doing the right freaking things off the field, that is very simple: He needs to figure it out. He needs to get around the right crowd. He needs to have more balance. Those things are very simple, I think, to be comfortable talking about.”

The Verdict

Network directors and producers loved Ray Lewis because the fire and brimstone he displayed on the field carried over to production meetings with television personnel during his career. Will such animation and emoting play the same on television? Lewis' success or failure as a broadcaster will be determined less by style and more on what kind of study he puts into the league as a whole—and into players on both sides of the football.

Lewis will also need to prove to viewers that he can be critical when it's warranted, and not merely another assembly line ex-jock in an industry famous for coddling former teammates and the league. Will he have a Charles Barkley-like impact on the NFL? No. But I've spoken with enough people at various networks to believe that Lewis can be very good if he puts in the work. Now it's up to him.

— R.D.

Of course, nothing is simple about Lewis’ past, including the double homicide in Atlanta 13 years ago for which he was originally charged with two counts of murder. In exchange for his testimony against two men who were with Lewis that night, the charges against him were reduced and he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Asked if he should be a part of any studio conversation about Hernandez, Lewis says, “It would only be to give a brief explanation on what you know. Because if you are talking about getting into the case—what happened, how it happened—that’s the judge’s job, that’s the police’s job. Having gone through the things I have been through, what I learned from that is everybody has something they want to say, and 80 percent of them are illiterate. You have to be careful with it. You can’t speak about something you do not know. Give your opinion, and keep it moving from there.”

The 38-year-old former linebacker says he will not read media stories about his broadcast work, nor will he follow what people are saying about him on Twitter. “I don’t pay attention to everyone’s opinion, good or bad, because it is irrelevant to me,” Lewis says. “You have to put in your work, put in your time, do it as passionately as you can, and love what you are doing so it doesn’t feel like work. I want to have fun with this. I know there will be naysayers, but if you get caught up in that, you will drive yourself crazy.”

Lewis is strictly an ESPN studio host for the moment (he will likely appear on other ESPN platforms, including radio), but senior coordinating producer Seth Markman, the executive who oversees the network’s NFL studio shows and who was instrumental in bringing Lewis on board, says he is strongly considering using Lewis to work the opening round of the 2014 draft. “I don’t want him to have to know 300 players, but if I told him to study the top 25 defensive players, I think it could be really special,” Markman says.

Lewis loves the idea. “Throughout my career I paid attention more to college games than NFL games,” he says. “Saturdays were the highlight of my freaking day. Learning college guys and watching those guys’ journey is fun. I bumped into [South Carolina defensive end] Jadeveon Clowney at the ESPYs, and I was telling him things beyond the play he’s best known for. He was like, ‘You saw all that?’ I was like, ‘Yes, I watch everything.’ “

He’ll be watching more pro football than ever. And TV insiders who’ve seen him in action are confident that Lewis’ knowledge and love of the game—evident every time he stepped on the field—will translate to a role in front of the camera. “Ray Lewis has an intensity and a way of communicating that are very infectious,” says CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, whose staffers spent countless hours in production meetings with Lewis during his playing career. “He is a bigger-than-life personality, very articulate and [has] an incredible passion for the game. I think he’d be a terrific studio analyst or game analyst.”

Lewis has a four-year contract with ESPN, but he says he’s approaching his new job the way he did the latter part of his football career: as a year-to-year proposition. “I plan on being the same way on the set as I was in football,” Lewis says. “Nothing changes. I remain who I am as a person. The only difference is, I don’t have to put on a helmet anymore. Viewers will now get to see the total package of what I did, how I did it, why the game is where it is, and why players are doing what they’re doing. You don’t get that a lot. You might get it in snippets in a pregame show or an interview, but it’s hard to get that every week.

“But this is my world. It’s not like they are sticking me somewhere fixing computers—if they did that, no one’s computer would ever work again. I think ESPN and I will end up really pleased with each other.”


The best part will be when Stabbem Lewis tries to come across as intelligent and he will show how Dumb and Stupid he really is,but He will think he's really " told dem how it bees".

Nickidewbear like.author.displayName 1 Like

I took a while to come around myself, but Ray Lewis should really receive a break on the murder schtick. I'm sure that at least one person who hates Ray Lewis here claims to be a Christian--and they shouldn't be claiming to be a Christian (or at least a very-strong one). Since you hate Ray Lewis so much, you have to hate Paul, too. "Now Saul was consenting to [Stephen's] death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison."

Paul's time came, didn't it? "For I am already being pouredout as a drinkoffering, and the time of my departure is at hand." Besides, Paul was never even prosecuted by the Romans! Ray Lewis cooperated with the prosecution, and the American justice system did what it did. So, why can't Ray Lewis be redeemed if and since an Anti-Messianic-murderer-turned-Messianic pioneer can be? 

C. Smith
C. Smith like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Nickidewbear Thank You, Nickidewbear. I too am sick of hearing about the 13year old incident.  There is a lot of misconception regarding that night, and the other two friends were acquitted on self defense. Everyone has an opinion and wants to carry on this long obsession with wrongfully accusing Ray.

DEJ1948 like.author.displayName 1 Like

They ought to make him wear an orange prison onesie whenever he's on the air.


Love all the hate for Lewis.  The NFL is full of guys like him and at last check it didn't stop people from watching.  

Shooter McGavin 19711
Shooter McGavin 19711 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@mystafugee Most guys in the NFL weren`t involved in a double homicide.  And yeah, Ray ditched his suit - AND paid of the families of the victims - which are two things that show he was not innocent...

RyanTaylor like.author.displayName 1 Like

Any show he's on...I won't watch.


@RyanTaylor I'd love to see what you did the first time they cut to him in the middle of a broadcast you're watching.  "Man, I'd love to keep watching this program I'm already in the middle of and get this insight from one of the best players of all time, but he was inevitably not charged with murder over a decade ago, time to jump to the middle of whatever segment they are running on Comcast Sports Net."  Enjoy that, I'm sure you'll live a happier life for your effort.

Shooter McGavin 19711
Shooter McGavin 19711

@dhartm2 @RyanTaylor He was close enough to the murder to get blood on his white suit which he ditched, he hid in the trunk of a car, and he paid off the victims`famililies.  If you think the fact that he was charged with a lesser offense means he wasn`t guilty of the main crime, then you know less about the judicial system than you do about football.  Please, let him come over and babysit your kids.  I hope you have a teenage daughter.  Ray needs a new partner, so he can have his eighth kid out of wedlock.  Yeah, he`s a man of God....

dhartm2 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Shooter McGavin 19711@dhartm2@RyanTaylorHaha.  Alright man.  The people that know him universally love him and he hasn't been charged with a single crime since.  Personally I don't even care about that, I'm just laughing at the guy who made the comment because there's no way he's actually going to change the channel when Ray Lewis comes on TV.  But keep preaching self righteous on internet message boards, whatever helps you sleep at night.  I hope universally loved in his lifetime children's TV personality Jimmy Savile babysits your kids, because it's easy to judge people by what you hear about them on TV.


@dhartm2 @RyanTaylor LOL It doesn't have anything to do with the murder charge.  IDGAF.  That's none of my business.  He's just annoying...and yes I will switch back and forth there are plenty of other channels to catch pre game shows and analysis.  I just hope he's on the one with Michael Irvin/ Marshall Faulk because even though they aren't as bad sometimes they end up getting in shouting matches with each other and it's annoying AF also.  

Fifilo like.author.displayName 1 Like

Self inflated buffoon balloon. Will fit right in with the publicity at all cost ESPN pig sty.

CliveOwen like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

All I can see is a white suit that isn't there and a guy who refused to cooperate with a murder investigation presumably because any such cooperation might tend to incriminate him. I see a guy who spent a lot of money to make sure this unpleasant affair disappeared. I see all this and that makes me want to not see Ray Lewis ever again. So anytime he pops up I will simply change the channel .

brentmontgomery like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

Ray Lewis is all about Ray Lewis. He is as phoney as a $3.00 bill(there really is a $2.00 bill). Again, ESPN gives a person a shot on national television who does not deserve it over a person who has a degree in broadcasting/journalism and has paid their dues at a local  TV/Radio station. This is exactly the reason ESPN can go fuck themselves. All for the sake of 1 extra viewer. The next time ESPN uses the word journalism, in any context, they should be sued for fraud.


@brentmontgomery Because the person with the degree in broadcasting/journalism can bring the same insight as a 13 time Pro Bowl linebacker?  They would actually lose credibility in my book if they didn't have people with actual experience, you know, PLAYING FOOTBALL, offer their analysis.

KristianColasacco like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

I won't watch any program with Ray Lewis on it.  I don't believe anything he ever has to say.  He comes across as fake and disingenuous.  I don't know how many people buy his act but I don't.  

sportsdave like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

How shameful of ESPN to hire Ray Lewis.  Ray calls 80% of people with an opinion illiterate?  Ray won't comment on Aaron Hernandez because he has "been there"?  Here are some facts about Ray Lewis from 13 years ago.  Ray paid off over a dozen people including the families and the locals.  Ray never answered why he had his limo leave the scene at a high rate of speed and told everyone to never speak in the promise of a payoff.  Ray had the limo stop and he ditched hos bloody white suit.  In exchange to get out of the murder charge he pointed a finger at two gentlemen "he saw strike blows" .  The two gentlemen were found not guilty in court. Ray lives on - OJ lives on.  Shameful.  


@sportsdave ...and you can't answer why he was never even charged for the crimes but keep going with your rant.


@mystafugee @sportsdave From what I recall, he did get prosecutorial immunity; and he has to live with what he did (or didn't do) for the rest of his life. So, just leave him alone, Dave.


@Nickidewbear @mystafugee @sportsdave nickidewbear"he has to live with what he did for the rest of his life"--little innocent school girl you need to do some research on sociopaths and guilt feelings.


@mystafugee @sportsdave Hi - hope all is well - 

My opinion is that his celebrity is why he was never charged.  Lots of back room deals and much better lawyers than local prosecutors.  A good DA would have dug up the landfills and scraped the limo for DNA which is standard for homicides involving "getaways".  To your point though, I do not like Ray Lewis, he turned to God which is great but has not cleansed his sole as he knows he got away with something. 

Alamode like.author.displayName 1 Like

Having seen some of his early work on ESPN, I must say he doesn't seem to be working very hard at this job. He's already worn thin with me as a commentator.  Unless he starts bringing real content, I'll just change the channel from ESPN whenever he is on.  I really don't see how he will make the sagging ESPN Sunday morning pre-game show any better, but Sunday NFL Countdown does need complete retoooling.

And unlike a lot of the commenters below, I don't hold his defending himself against a couple of known felons against him.


He seems to have graduated from cliche school already.

simon. like.author.displayName 1 Like

When his new job is to critique people, it seems hypocritical that he would dismiss any criticism against him as naysaying.

unseth like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Not sure if he will work out ok, but i guess this is my new home since ESPN went facebook lol


@unseth so I guess if we say anything negative about an ESPN employee it won't be deleted.

Thunder7ga like.author.displayName 1 Like

Thank goodness I no longer have ESPN access, I would not be able to tolerate listening to Ray Lewis each week.  He was a great player....not such a great person (i.e. the ATL incident), lets leave it at that.

john15 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Does he realize just how Dumb and Stupid he comes across as?? In de Hood he may be considered smart,but in the real world he is just a Dumb Thug.

Geddy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

"I would come from the most honest point ever."

Too bad he didn't do that when he was involved in murder. I can't stand that we glorify this punk.

BigJoe like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hmmm, maybe not the most articulate guy?  "Saturdays were the highlight of my freaking day"  soooo looking forward to this disaster.  I am predicting Emmit Smith part deux

Friggenwacko like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Those two gang bangers from Cleveland were breaking probation be leaving the state, they had records, they were out at 3am outside a nightclub for one reason only.  They attacked Ray Lewis' group, initiated the confrontation by breaking a bottle over someone's head and those that were charged got off on the grounds of self defense.  If those SOBs attacked me, I would've killed them, too.  I suppose all you criticizing would've let them beat you to death.

sportsdave like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Friggenwacko Excellent revisionist history - anybody with a brain can read the trial transcript as I suggest you do.  Being a thug does not make you a murderer.  Self defense is not on this conversation.  Ray's group was bigger and there was no threat until the real "thugs" pulled out the gun and fired the shots.  In the future (same advice for Ray) please do some research prior to posting idiotic statements. 

doublejtrain68 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Jeez Louise, will you people let the murder thing go already? That incident was 13 years ago and you people still harping on it. He reached out to the families of the victims and has done what he could. Keep in mind, folks, that the victims weren't exactly saints either. He has been nothing but a model player and great leader since then, and yet people can't let it go. Only he knows what happened that night, and people want to be judge, jury and prosecutor. I haven't seen him in the news for other off-field incidents, so why keep harping on it. It's your rights as American citizens not to like the guy for some reason, but the case is closed and people need to move on. If you don't want Lewis on ESPN, then don't freakin' watch. Period. 

sportsdave like.author.displayName 1 Like

@doublejtrain68 Why do you act like they deserved it?  "They were not saints" does not mean you can kill them at will.  One of Ray's posse from that night has turned and a book is due soon.  You will get to know the Ray we know - 

LanceABoyle like.author.displayName 1 Like

“Saturdays were the highlight of my freaking day."

Yeah, this is gonna be great.....


I'm dreading having to listen to this dude. I'm so sick of Ray Lewis. Yes, he was a fantastic player, and I'm sure he'll be good at this. But I can't stand him. Couldn't since he got out of his murder rap. I'm sure ESPN knows what they're doing and the majority of NFL fans will enjoy listening to him. Myself, I'll tune him out. Probably change the channel when he's talking. I'm just glad CBS didn't pick him up, because for my money, they have the best studio lineup in football. 

dapala like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ray Lewis is a THUG.  No need for him to be on TV!!!!!!