The best part of training camp for many Cincinnati Bengals fans is the annual pseudo scrimmage, which is part of Family Day inside Paul Brown Stadium.
But for head coach Marvin Lewis, that won’t even be the highlight of his Saturday.
The real excitement will come later in the evening when he travels to Canton to see Ray Lewis inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens, who will not be present in Canton for his induction, will add to the impressive roster of Hall of Fame players Marvin Lewis has coached, along with Kevin Greene, Darrell Green, Rod Woodson and Bruce Smith.
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Each of them have mentioned Marvin in their induction speeches, and there’s no doubt Ray will as well.
“It’s really special,” Marvin said. “It’s great. I’m flattered. I was honored to coach them. I was lucky to coach them and just be a part. As I said, I wouldn’t be here without Kevin Greene and Rod Woodson and Ray Lewis. No doubt.”
Greene, whom Marvin watched go into the Hall of Fame in 2016, was eight seasons into his career when he joined the Steelers, where he played three seasons with Marvin as his position coach. Woodson was a five-year vet by the time Marvin was on staff.
In Washington, Green was in the final season of his 20-year career and Smith in his 18th of 19 seasons when Marvin joined the Redskins for one season before taking the Bengals job.
But Marvin’s relationship with Ray goes back before the linebacker was officially a pro, back to 1996 when Marvin was in his first year with Baltimore as the defensive coordinator and Ray was one of the top prospects in the draft.
“I knew Ray from the ground up, from his rookie time and draft evaluation and everything and from the day we picked him,” Marvin said. “Kevin was a more mature player when he came to me and I only got to spend three years with Kevin. But then we had the relationship after that. Always, wherever he was, when he got into coaching. And he was so gracious to come here and spend time here with our players.”
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Ray was only 20 when the Ravens drafted him 26th overall, and Marvin said it was great to watch and be a part of his growth and maturity into who he thinks is the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history.
“He understood how to fit within the defense,” Marvin said. “He understood where the edges of the defense were. He really got himself aligned in position. He wasted no steps in getting where he needed to go.”
Asked if he was surprised Ray became a member of the media after retirement, Marvin said he wasn’t at all.
“He really has the ability to lead people, no matter what it is,” Marvin said. “He became such a student of the game, so there’s no one who can talk and know football and know players and know the grind better than Ray Lewis.”
Marvin also spent two years with Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe in Baltimore in 2000-01, but he didn’t have the day-to-day contact with Sharpe that he had with the defensive players.
It was different with mercurial wide receiver Owens, the first and only Hall of Fame player Marvin worked with as a head coach. Owens spent one season — his final one in the NFL — with the Bengals in 2010, catching 72 passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns.
“T.O. had a great season for us in 2010,” Marvin said. “He really did. It was strong. I made the comment many times that I had to coach against him quite a bit and coaching with him, he was better than I remembered. He was better than I thought he was.
“He played hurt,” Marvin continued. “He came out here, and he learned. He studied. He did a great job for us.”
Owens, as a protest to the media for not voting him into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, will skip the ceremony and deliver his speech his alma mater Tennessee-Chattanooga at 3:17 p.m. (he’s the 317th member to be inducted).
The Bengals scrimmage will be finished by then, so Marvin will have time to watch if he desires. But the real highlight will come later in the evening, when he reunites with former members of the Ravens coaching staff, front office and roster, many of whom were a part of the Super Bowl XXXV championship that paved the path for Marvin’s arrival in Cincinnati.