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Bill Belichick on The Big Show: How Ray Lewis left an ‘over-the-top’ first impression

01.16.12 at 5:25 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in his weekly appearance on The Big Show, acknowledged that his team had a strong all-around performance against the Broncos before suggesting that it was incumbent on his team to “turn the page” and begin preparing for a Ravens team that represents what he characterized as an even more formidable challenge.

Belichick spoke highly of Baltimore, but was particularly effusive in his praise of safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis. Indeed, Belichick suggested that the two players enjoyed shared traits that have helped to make both standouts at their positions.

“He’€™s a magnet to the ball. His guy might be open, but they’€™re not throwing it to him. When they’€™re throwing to his guy, he’€™s right there where he should be,” Belichick said of Reed. “He’€™s 20 yards away from his guy but he’€™s close to the ball. He’€™s got great vision and anticipation. He’€™s very fast. He’€™s got good quickness. But I think the big thing with him is his instincts.

“He has a great understanding of what’€™s happening on the play, where the ball’€™s going, who’€™s threatening. He’€™s almost always in great position and usually getting there before the play has totally unfolded. As it’€™s developing, that’€™s when he figures it out and he’€™s already started to make his move to the point of attack,” he continued. “You’€™ve got to be careful with him. You’€™ve got to know where he’€™s at because he’€™s going to be by the ball. If you’€™re throwing it, you better make sure you can get it there before he does. … His anticipation and instincts, I’€™d say, are second to none at that position, very comparable to Ray Lewis as a middle linebacker.”

As for Lewis, Belichick first met the middle linebacker in 1996 when he a defensive coordinator for the Patriots after he’d been fired by the Browns (who were about to relocate to Baltimore to become the Ravens). Belichick met with Lewis, a linebacker at the University of Miami, in the spring before the draft.

Ultimately, Lewis ended up going with the No. 26 pick of the first round to the Ravens, while the Patriots took Terry Glenn with the No. 7 pick of the first round (and later nabbed Lawyer Milloy with their second-round pick, the No. 36 overall selection, as well as Tedy Bruschi in the third round). Though Belichick didn’t end up taking Lewis, he left the meeting with him with an extremely favorable impression.

“I spent a full day down with him at Miami,” said Belichick. “It was a great day. Spent a lot of time with Ray watching film, just going over it. He’€™s just as intense in the film room as he is out on the football field. Totally into it. He’€™s very bright, alert, smart guy. Picks up a lot of little things quickly. Knows exactly not just what he’€™s doing, but what everyone around him is doing ‘€“ the entire defense and also knows what the offense is doing, too, based on different formations or keys he’€™s getting. He talked very easily and quickly about this is what I see, this is why I’€™m doing this, I can see what this guy is doing, the split, the depth of back, where the quarterback’€™s looking, all those sorts of things. And he certainly understands what all his teammates should be doing on that call.

“He plays with great confidence. That enables him to play fast and to play aggressively,” said Belichick. “[The meeting was] similar to some conversations I’€™ve had with other guys like that. One meeting, four or five hours with the guy, and sometimes you come away sometimes with over-the-top type impressions. That’€™s certainly how it was with Ray back in ‘€™96.”

To listen to the complete Belichick interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis
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