The days of a big, hulking Ray Lewis we're all used to seeing could be over. And no, this isn't a blog speculating when the 17-year veteran linebacker will consider retirement.
Having weighed as much as 260 pounds in the past, Lewis reported to the Ravens training camp noticeably lighter, well below the 240 pounds the team lists him on their roster. One of the main reasons Lewis said he decided to drop the weight is because of the NFL's evolution into becoming a passing league.
Teams are no longer running the ball 30 to 40 times a game, and instead are throwing the ball around with versatile, pass-catching tight ends to disrupt what linebackers have grown accustomed to doing on the football field.
Lewis wouldn't disclose his playing weight except acknowledging he was below 240.
"It's all based on matchups now," Lewis said. "People want to find mismatches here and there. You have to change with the game."
Playing at that weight could become a challenge in the AFC North, a hard-nosed division that still likes to establish the run. The Browns drafted Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the third overall pick. The Steelers, which did spread the ball around quite a bit in 2011, are hoping to re-establish the run with Isaac Redman. The Bengals welcome reliable running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to a backfield that will be used to open up big plays down the field.
Lewis spoke early Wednesday evening with confidence he won't lose the power the weight loss could ultimately bring.
"It's a passing game," he said. "It's a quick game. Offenses want to score 30, 40 points and it's by creating mismatches."
Where Lewis' weight loss could aid him is in coverage, where he seemed to lose a step a season ago. Baltimore faces six non-division opponents that finished 2011 in the top 15 in passing offense (New England, Philadelphia, San Diego, Dallas, New York Giants, Washington) and will face Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos late in the year. AFC North rival Pittsburgh finished 10th in passing offense.
Time will tell if the weight loss will pay off for Lewis, whose offseason conditioning continues to keep him from looking like the 37 years of age he is.
"When you're in the offseason and you're training, something I really learn about the game is that I appreciate it," Lewis said. "I love competition. That's why I come back every year."