The schedule always seems to work out.
Marvin Lewis can run the Bengals' training camp scrimmage on Saturday afternoon and then in a microwave-quick flight be four hours up the road at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, to get called out. Kevin Greene and Rod Woodson did it to him when they went in and there's no doubt Ray Lewis salutes his NFL first defensive coordinator when he's presented in a 7 p.m. ceremony on ESPN and NFL Network.
"I wouldn't be here without Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson and Ray Lewis," said Marvin Lewis after a practice this week. "No doubt."
But this one has to be a little bit more special. When Lewis coached Greene in Pittsburgh as the Steelers linebackers coach in the early '90s, Greene was a nine-year veteran on his second team that had already been to a Pro Bowl and Lewis helped his career take off. By the time Woodson got to Baltimore for his 12th season and Lewis, the Ravens defensive coordinator, began to fit him in as a safety, Woodson had been to six Pro Bowls and was already a Hall-of-Famer. When Lewis coached Darrell Green in his 20th and last year in Washington, everyone knew Green was going, too. Same with Bruce Smith during that 2002 season.
But Ray Lewis? Like Marvin Lewis says, he was there at the beginning in Baltimore in 1996, when Ray was Marvin's first draft pick running the Ravens defense. But not only that, he coached him in his first six seasons and helped him develop into a dominating middle linebacker that ruled his era. Under Lewis Ray went to five Pro Bowls, was named first-team All-Pro three times and was the Super Bowl MVP when Marvin's record-setting defense wiped out the Giants in 2000.
"From the ground up," Marvin Lewis said. "From his rookie time and draft evaluation and everything and from the day we picked him. It's special."
The Ravens had two picks in that 1996 first round and Ozzie Newsome ended up plucking two Hall-of-Famers when he used the fourth selection on left tackle Jonathan Ogden and the 26th on Lewis, an intense, interesting player from the University of Miami that was still there after linebackers Kevin Hardy, John Mobley and Reggie Brown had been picked. Maybe he was still there because he was just 6-1 or because he wouldn't turn 21 until the next month.
"He was our linebacker," said Lewis, who felt the Ravens projected Ray making the jump to the NFL quickly because of how well Miami backers Micheal Barrow and Jessie Armstead played in the league.
But the passion is what Marvin Lewis knew he wanted. The rest came quickly.
"He understood how to fit within the defense. He understood where the edges of the defense were," Marvin Lewis said. "He really got himself aligned and positioned. He wasted no steps in getting where he needed to go.
"Ray has a gift of giving. He really has the ability to lead people, no matter what it is. He became such a student of the game, so there's no one who can talk and know football and know players and know the grind better than Ray Lewis."
The greatest middle linebacker ever?
"I think so," said Marvin and it sounded as objective as he could be.
Another one of his players is getting the nod Saturday night, but former Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens won't be there because he didn't get to the Hall earlier. Like Green, Lewis got Owens in his last season, and it will be recalled that Owens saved their skins when free-agent wide receiver Antonio Bryant's $7 million knee blew up. Owens signed hours before the 2010 training camp started and led the team in receiving with 72 catches and 983 yards despite missing the last two games with a knee injury and gutting through a broken hand.
"T.O. had a great season for us in 2010. He really did," Lewis said. "It was strong. I made the comment many times that I had to coach against him quite a bit and coaching with him, he was better than I remembered. He was better than I thought he was. He played hurt. He came out here and he learned, he studied. He did a great job for us."
Owens is the third Hall-of-Famer to play with the Bengals, joining long-time left tackle Anthony Munoz and wide receiver Charlie Joiner, author of 82 catches and six TDs after arriving in a 1972 late-season trade from Houston and before being traded to San Diego heading into the 1976 season for pass rusher Coy Bacon.