Convinced that maintaining his mobility is the key to remaining a force at age 37, Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis dieted and exercised his way down to his lightest weight since he was a rookie.
Down to roughly 235 pounds after playing as heavy as 250 to 260 pounds in the past, Lewis said he feels comfortable with his trimmer status.
Although it remains to be seen how Lewis will perform over an entire season with much less bulk, his track record speaks for itself as a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year entering his 17th NFL season.
"It's awesome," Lewis said. "I feel great. I feel great just running around, just excited to really get the regular season started and everything. Anytime you finish 17 years of training camps, that's a blessing within itself. So, me, I'm just really excited, regardless of whatever else."
Lewis has recorded 1,295 career tackles, 40 1/2 sacks and 31 interceptions.
The Ravens will need another big year out of him after losing Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to a torn right Achilles tendon and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive end Cory Redding to free agency.
The Ravens are breaking in two new starters at outside linebacker with Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan and Pernell McPhee or Arthur Jones at left defensive end.
"At the end of the day, that's why we're called a team," Lewis said. "It doesn't matter who takes the lead, who does whatever. If we go into games and win games together, that's the bottom-line emphasis. It doesn't matter what it is.
"Me, Ed [Reed] and the guys who are on our side, we are going to do what we are supposed to do [and] what we've always done. So, that's not going to change for us. For us, offensively, what we're doing, the tempo and things we're creating. Are we excited about it? Absolutely."
The Ravens finished third in total defense last season, first in red-zone defense.
Will the defense maintain its traditionally high standard?
"The question that will always be is the only thing that will ever figure, the only way you can ever figure that out is at the end of the year," Lewis said. "That's it. Year after year, we always try to compare this defense to that defense.
"It's just impossible to do. The thing is, you have to play the whole season out. Once you play the whole season out, you'll see where it goes from there."