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Steelers Lewis' gesture infuriates injured Porter, inspires Steelers' defense

Monday, September 08, 2003

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Joey Porter stood on the sidelines, in T-shirt and black gym shorts. For all intents and purposes, he should have had no impact on the Steelers' season-opening victory against the Baltimore Ravens.

But there he was, shouting at Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for what Porter perceived to be a disrespectful gesture in the first quarter, and inspiring the Steelers' defense in a 34-15 victory.

Porter, a Pro Bowl linebacker who did not play because he is recovering from a gunshot wound, became incensed when Lewis got up after stopping Amos Zereoue for no gain and kicked his right leg -- a Porter trademark after a big play.

"I thought he kind of disrespected me," Porter said. "He came out here, he's doing the boot and telling me this is his house. I think that's negative. You don't come and disrespect a man who's hurt. Why are you worried about me? I'm not even playing. Why are you imitating me? That let me know he doesn't care. There were times when he was in trouble with the law, his shoulder was hurt, and I went over there and shook his hand and said, 'Get through it.' Yet, he wants to make fun of me being hurt? I take that like a slap in the face. You never kick a man when he's down."

Porter was referring to Lewis' arrest in connection with a murder in Atlanta during Super Bowl week in 2000. Lewis, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was acquitted when he agreed to testify against two friends who were charged with the murder.

"I talk a lot of trash, but when he went through the thing with the court and the murder and all that and his shoulder was hurt, I didn't make fun of him," Porter said. "That wasn't something you make fun of. You're just hoping a guy can get out of it and get back out there on the field. On the other hand, he wants to sit there and try to make fun of me. I'm like, why are you making fun of me? I'm not even playing. Don't make fun of someone who's hurt. By him doing that, it fired my team up. It definitely fired me up. I wanted to play right then. But I couldn't do nothing about it. I was happy to sit back and lick my wounds and remember what he did."

Lewis, who missed most of the 2002 season with a shoulder injury, finished with nine tackles against the Steelers, four of them solo. But he was not the disruptive force he usually is in the Ravens' defense, which yielded 339 yards.

"He didn't make a play all day," Porter said. "He caught himself doing the boot, he made one tackle. He's running around there, running his mouth, doing all that, but if you watch him on film and really look, where was Ray Lewis? He was nowhere to be found. I could have tackled the water boy and had as many tackles as him. He didn't do nothing today. He's all mouth. When you talk like that, that's what happens: You get hit in the mouth. He's over there crying now, thinking about what went wrong. You got your [rear end] whipped, that's what."

When told of Porter's comment, Lewis said, "Why would I argue with Joey Porter? He's done nothing in this league."

Lewis said he tried to shout encouragement to Porter before the game, telling him, "You're in my prayers," when the players came out on the field before the game. But Lewis said Porter began screaming at him from across the field.

"As soon as I said that, he yells out to me, 'This is my house,' " Lewis said. "I said 'Joey, you're in my prayers. I'm consoling you, you know?' You never want to see a player go down like that. And he yells back, 'I don't care, I don't care. This is my house.' ... Most people before they listen, they just want to blurt out. He's young, man. This guy ... he's been to one Pro Bowl? He knows it all now. Hey, I love Joey Porter. Do what you do. Get healthy. You're always going to stay in my prayers. But quit your challenging. We're not hatin' against each other."

Lewis was asked if he was mocking Porter when he kicked his right leg after tackling Zereoue.

"People have been kicking sand for years," Lewis said. "He ain't never started that. He just brought it back up."

Still, when Lewis did that, several Steelers, including Porter, were offended.

"When we're playing at home and one of our main guys goes down and you've got another player just mocking him, that's how we took it: He was mocking one of our good players," said inside linebacker James Farrior, who replaced Porter in the dime defense. "You don't kick a man when he's down, so we took it a little personal."

The Steelers do not have a clear timetable for Porter's return -- it could take anywhere from two to eight weeks after he was shot outside a Denver bar Aug. 31 -- but Porter has already started jogging and said he's ahead of schedule in his recovery.

He said the biggest problem is not the wound in his left buttock, which needs to heal so it doesn't become infected. Rather, it's his right thigh, which contained the bullet before it was removed and is still very sore.

"When the pain goes away there, and I can get to almost top speed, then I'll be ready to come back," Porter said. "I've got to try to see where I'm at each day, so I feel good about myself, so when I do go out there on the field I've got to know for myself I'm ready."


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.

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