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Thomas ravin' mad at Lewis

Ex-teammates in a war of words

Adalius Thomas (above) can look forward to settling accounts with Ray Lewis over the phone - or on the field Dec. 3. Adalius Thomas (above) can look forward to settling accounts with Ray Lewis over the phone - or on the field Dec. 3. (STEPHAN SAVOIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

FOXBOROUGH - Bad blood between former Baltimore teammates Adalius Thomas and Ray Lewis boiled over yesterday, with Thomas - the first-year Patriots linebacker - responding passionately to being called a coward by Lewis, who remains a Ravens linebacker.

At issue are comments attributed to Thomas in a Sports Illustrated article posted on the magazine's website Oct. 16.

In the piece, Thomas described the difference between the Ravens and Patriots and was quoted as saying, "People there wanted the limelight; people sought out the limelight, starting with the head coach. It was a star-studded system. Here it's about as different as you can get. Everybody here shies away from being the star guy. Nobody on this team beats his chest. They just all go about their business. And win."

Lewis, who often beats his chest after making a tackle, took exception to the remarks on his ESPN 1300 Baltimore radio show Monday night.

"When you take a shot at men that you claim to love to go to war with, I call those cowards," Lewis said. "If you have something to say privately, you don't have to go to a newspaper. If you have something to say to a man, speak it."

Thomas, 30, was aware of Lewis's comments when he entered the Patriots' locker room yesterday. Speaking to an overflowing group of reporters at his locker, he first said he was misquoted, and then shot back at Lewis.

"The only problem I have is the coward comment," Thomas said. "To call me a coward, you have my phone number. You can call me. I will call Ray personally, myself. As far as calling me a coward, I think that goes to something personal. I don't like it."

Thomas took exception to Lewis saying, "We won a Super Bowl without Adalius Thomas. The New England Patriots won three Super Bowls without Adalius Thomas. You're talking about a guy who we put in - a great talent, don't ever get me wrong - but systematically we had to fit him into our schemes."

Thomas seemed perturbed by those remarks, noting past comments by Lewis that his performance was suffering because the Ravens did not have a big nose tackle so he could make more uncontested tackles. Thomas also referenced comments made by Lewis last Sunday after the Ravens' 19-14 loss to the Bills in which Lewis questioned the play-calling of coach Brian Billick.

"To attack my integrity, and say you had to make a scheme up for me, I didn't know they made up outside linebacker for me," Thomas fired back. "I know he was crying about a big guy in the middle so you can keep blockers off of you. I mean, I don't know if that's a scheme made for you or not. As far as that goes, if you want to criticize your head coach, talk about a coward. You can go right upstairs and talk to him like a man, just like you're talking about me."

Lewis also had taken a shot at Thomas's lack of Pro Bowl selections (2) compared with his own (8).

Thomas and Lewis did not have a close bond in the seven seasons they were teammates. Fellow linebacker Bart Scott was one of Thomas's closest friends on the team, and Thomas recalled a similar incident in which a comment that appeared in print sparked initial hard feelings between he and Scott. The two cleared it up by speaking on the phone.

"That's how you solve that," Thomas said. "If you think I took a shot at you, pick the phone up and call me. Because at no point when I did the interview did I ever try to take a shot at anybody at Baltimore or any of the players. I have friends there."

The Patriots visit the Ravens in a Monday night game Dec. 3, the first time Thomas and Lewis will be on the same field together since Thomas signed as a free agent with the Patriots this offseason.

Thomas plans to speak with Lewis before then.

"If I have something to say, anybody that knows me, I don't hold my tongue for nobody," Thomas said. "If I have something to say, I'll say it to Ray, or I'll say it to anybody else that is out there. But I'm not here to go back and forth with he said, she said or try to throw a quote at somebody that indirectly."

Thomas explained what he was trying to say in the Sports Illustrated piece.

"I don't think what I said came out that way. I could be totally wrong," he said. "It was a compliment of the Patriots. I never downed the Ravens. Anybody that has seen me do an interview in seven years knows my integrity isn't that. If I have something to say to somebody, then I'll say it. Nothing that I said was a comment or shot at the Ravens, or none of the players. Actually, I said I had a chance to play with Hall of Fame players that was not in that quote. I went on to name names. Ray Lewis was one of the names I named.

"The only thing I tried to say was that it's different here than it was there. I said the superstars that were there were everyday household names, from Randall Cunningham to Deion Sanders, those are everyday, household names. That's what I said, but that got cut out [of the article]. That's how it went. As far as that goes, I said [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick is the same way, everybody here shies away from the media. I said the head coach there, he stayed in the media when I was there. That's not a shot, that's a fact."

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