OWINGS MILLS -- The feud between Adalius Thomas and Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis escalated as Thomas issued a nasty rebuttal Wednesday in response to Lewis branding him a coward. Thomas, who left the Ravens in March to sign a $35 million contract with the New England Patriots, started this war of words when he ripped his former team and coach Brian Billick.
In the Sports Illustrated interview, he also appeared to take a veiled shot at Lewis.
Now, the former Baltimore All-Pro linebacker has called Lewis a coward for his second-guessing of Billick's play-calling and for publicly campaigning for Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to draft a big defensive tackle -- Haloti Ngata -- to keep blockers off him.
"As far as calling me a coward, I think that goes to something personal, I don't like it," Thomas told New England reporters Wednesday. "I will address that with him personally myself. To attack my integrity, as far as that goes, and say you had to make a scheme up for me, I didn't know they made up outside linebacker for me. I really didn't know that.
"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."
Thomas took a shot at Billick in the magazine interview, where he said that the Ravens employed "a star-studded system," adding that none of the Patriots "beats his chest."
For years, Lewis has pounded his chest after tackles.
"You don't become a Super Bowl champion in this business without having character and dignity for what you do for your teammates," Lewis said Monday on his weekly radio show. "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 we put in, great talent, but, systematically, we had to fit into our schemes.
"When you take a shot at men that you claim to love to go to war with, I call those cowards. If you got something to say privately, you don't have to go to a newspaper. If you got something to say to a man, speak it."
Plus, Lewis took a shot at Thomas' lack of Pro Bowl recognition. Thomas was selected last year as a defensive player and was selected once previously for special-teams.
"When you find a guy like this and he's the first to not celebrate with his teammates, you got to ask yourself, 'Who's looking for the limelight?'" Lewis said. "You're talking about a guy who's been to one or two Pro Bowls. I done been to eight. I can quadruple that."
Meanwhile, Thomas claimed that his comments were taken out of context. The reporter who wrote the story, Tim Layden, is an award-winning, veteran journalist.
"I don't think I recall any of the conversation I had, I don't think what I said came out that way," Thomas said. "I could be totally wrong. Like I 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."
In a lengthy explanation, Thomas kept attempting to clarify what he meant.
"The only thing I tried to say was that it's different here than it was there," Thomas said. "I said I played with Hall of Fame guys on both sides of the ball and I named players on both sides, and that's what I said. I said the superstars that were there were everyday household names, from Randall Cunningham to Deion Sanders.
"That's what I said, but that got cut out.. 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 [Brian Billick], he stayed in the media when I was there. That's not a shot, that's a fact."
The Ravens host the Patriots on Dec. 3 at M&T Bank Stadium in a high-profile Monday night matchup.
NOTE: In a familiar set of transactions, the Baltimore Ravens signed kicker Rhys Lloyd and running back Cory Ross. They rejoined the active roster as offensive tackle Mike Kracalik and tight end Lee Vickers were cut and signed to the practice squad.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.