Lewis excelled, Dayne disappointed in rookie seasons
Updated: Wednesday January 24, 2001 2:53 AM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Ron Dayne couldn't remember reading or hearing anything that could have prepared him for the enormity of Super Bowl media day.
The rookie running back for the New York Giants sat in the stands at Raymond James Stadium on Tuesday, surveying the scene below and slowly shaking his head in amazement.
"You can't really compare this to nothing else," said the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, who just as well could have been talking about his transition to the NFL after a record-breaking career at Wisconsin.
"I'm just up here trying to blend in," he added. "That's what I've done all season."
Dayne rushed for 770 yards and five touchdowns, the second-highest rushing total for a first-year player in Giants history, although it's been difficult adjusting to a role of sharing playing time with Tiki Barber.
"It's been a long season. I didn't really expect too much. I just wanted to come in and learn the game and get better. Anything else that I did is a plus," Dayne said.
"As long as we made it to the Super Bowl, I'm happy. We were winning, so I didn't have any complaints. I wasn't complaining at all. It wasn't like I was upset about splitting time. I knew I was going to have to come in and learn from Tiki and the other guys playing anyway."
Lewis didn't have an immediate impact, either.
He began the season in a limited role after dislocating his elbow during a training camp scrimmage, carrying the ball just 19 times for 99 yards in Baltimore's first three games before breaking through for the first of five 100-yard performances in Week 4.
Lewis was easily the Ravens' most consistent player on offense the remainder of the year and was the main reason Baltimore ranked second in the NFL in time of possession (33:19).
"He's a tough runner, the whole package," New York's Michael Strahan said. "He adds a dimension to their offense. It will be tough, very tough, for us to stop him. He's another one of those big, powerful backs -- a young guy with fresh legs, so he's very tough to stop."
The Super Bowl will be the Ravens' 24th game, including four preseason exhibitions -- the equivalent of two college seasons. Still, the 5-foot-11, 231-pound Lewis has not shown any signs of hitting the so-called rookie wall.
He's gained 236 yards on 76 attempts in playoff victories over Denver, Tennessee and Oakland and is eager to carry the load against the Giants on Sunday.
"I don't think I've worn down any. Everybody on the team kind of wears down a little bit, taking the pounding week after week, You just have to condition well, get your rest and get ready for the next Sunday," Lewis said.
"After the way the season started, I never thought I'd get over 1,300 yards ... It's been a great a great year for me. Coming out of school, leaving and not knowing where I would be and ending up getting picked fifth in the draft. It's just been great to come to a team like the Ravens. I saw the talented guys on this team and I knew we had the potential to get to this point. It was just up to us to put everything together and get to this point."