FOXBORO, Mass. — Linebacker Ray Lewis probably didn't come close to being a member of the Patriots, but he was definitely on their radar heading into the 1996 NFL draft.
New England head coach Bill Belichick, an assistant on Bill Parcells' staff in 1996, has alluded several times to Lewis' tremendous pre-draft interview process. In passing, Belichick has mentioned linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty as players who had similarly impressive pre-draft interviews to Lewis, particularly in terms of film study.
Belichick recollected his time with Lewis on Thursday, as his Patriots prepared to take on Lewis' Ravens in Sunday's AFC Championship.
"Real impressive," Belichick said of Lewis in 1996. "I spent all day down there with him in Miami. It was before the '96 season when I was first coming to New England. Yeah, really impressive guy — fast, made a lot of plays in college in their 4-3 scheme. He was a middle linebacker. He had a ton of production. Really instinctive guy that had great intensity and knowledge of the game, even back then, and certainly we can all see that now, but I saw it when he was at Miami."
The Patriots used the seventh overall pick on wide receiver Terry Glenn, much to Parcells' public dismay, as it yielded his famous line that revealed his passion for grocery shopping. Parcells reportedly wanted to draft defensive lineman Tony Brackens, who was taken by the Jaguars at No. 33, instead of Glenn. At the very least, there appeared to be no doubt that Parcells wanted a defensive player with that pick.
Lewis, meanwhile, slipped to the Ravens at No. 26 — 10 picks ahead of where the Patriots took safety Lawyer Milloy with their second selection — and he's remained in Baltimore ever since.
In hindsight, Lewis should have been one of the top two or three picks in the draft (the Ravens also hit a home run with tackle Jonathan Ogden at No. 4). And he was certainly there for the taking at No. 7.