10-16-03, 7:15 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
When Kurtis Shultz left Baltimore back in January to join Marvin Lewis and Chip Morton as the Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach, Ray Lewis came to his going away party.
Ray Lewis, the best middle linebacker of his generation, shed the game face for the evening and was the fun, cordial self his friends know. Of course, even though Shultz literally sweated through the last year with him, he hasn't talked to him all that much since.
If at all.
"We'll see each other Sunday," says Shultz of the Bengals' game against Lewis' Ravens. "And we'll be friendly and nice. But with Ray, if you're not on his side, you're pretty much the enemy."
Every Sunday is bone-shaking emotional for Lewis, but this one at Paul Brown Stadium has to be even more so. Not only is there Shultz, his personal trainer for the past three years, but there is Marvin Lewis, his guru and confidant who drafted him and trained him as the Ravens defensive coordinator.
"It was huge," says Ravens head coach Brian Billick of Marvin's impact on Ray. "I'm sure it is (a close relationship) to this day. Both were key parts of each other's development."
It is no longer Marvin Lewis' defense that set NFL records and won the Ravens a Super Bowl in 2000. Lewis admits he knows enough of the guys that it can bring a tear to his eye while watching tape, but it isn't even a 4-3 any more. It's a 3-4.
"When Marvin was there two years ago ... you talk about a defense ... you basically had an all-pro type of player at every position, so they didn't do a lot exotically on defense," says Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna. "Now they are trying to free guys up. They have (linebacker) Peter Boulware and (defensive end) Adalius Thomas, two of the better athletes that you are going to see on a football field, and then you have Ray Lewis running around like crazy."
Offensive line coach Paul Alexander doesn't see those huge 380-pound tackles like Marvin Lewis had there, but Mike Nolan's unit is ranked ninth on defense for a reason.
"They've got a lot of guys who are tweeners," Alexander says. "Guys who are fast and athletic enough that it seems like they can play both on the line and at linebacker."
But they still have Ray Lewis and Marvin Lewis says that makes them special.
"They have a great leader in 52. Since the day he walked in that building, he has led them, and if you're not up to his standard, then you better get out of his way," Marvin Lewis says. "I think he makes them better persons, better players in every way. Sometimes guys stray a little bit from him and his way, but they stick out like a sore thumb if they do, and it is very obvious. I think that's the biggest thing, and when you add guys that have the same passion, the same athletic ability, the same ability to learn the game and understand the opponent, then you have a chance to be very good."
Shultz lived the passion virtually every day this past year because Lewis pretty much worked out every day, except for Sunday mornings. Lewis went to Shultz three years ago to get something extra, and after two years of kickboxing sessions that expanded into weight training, Shultz spent every day with him in Baltimore or on the road.
"He might have a speech, or a photo shoot, or a commercial, and I'd bring my equipment and we'd find a gym some place in town," Shultz says. "We might only stretch for an hour and a half, but we would do something almost every day. The guy just wants to be the best. He doesn't want to finish second to anybody."
Lewis didn't mind too much getting beat in kickboxing because that is Shultz's thing. But Shultz paid a price because Lewis is so athletic that he could block a move after he saw it just once.
"We had the headgear on and we'd go at it," Shultz says. "He was relentless pounding away. I'd tell him, 'One more round,' and he would find the energy."
Lewis seems to always find it. Shultz could never beat him on the notorious hill at the old ski slopes known as "Oregon Ridge." When they would both feel like quitting on the run with 45-pound packs on their backs up the hill that slanted as long as a football field and a half, Lewis never did and never lost.
"You weren't going to beat him on the hill ever. Just too fast," Shultz says. "He used to say, 'Got to stay on top, got to stay on top.' Especially after the Super Bowl. He had a saying, 'You might as well do it today. Why wait?'"
Shultz thinks it's the drive that separates him. He can still feel Lewis' intensity, even when he left to come to Cincinnati.
"Ray's a very loyal guy," Shultz says. "If you're with Baltimore or (the University of) Miami, he's with you all the way. If you're not, well, time to move on."
But on Sunday, Lewis will no doubt seek out Shultz, and then move on.