But for now he wrestles with the direction of his game. "When I was first in the league, we'd go into defensive meetings, and what the meeting was all about was who was going to get that big hit," says Lewis. "That can't change. That hit instantly changes the emotion of the game. It's at your risk if you run over [into my territory]. My job is that if a little receiver is coming across the middle—I didn't tell you to be 160 pounds—I've got one job: Decleat him. That's it. And our coaches will sit on film and praise me for it."
Lewis watched James Harrison's $75,000 hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. "What that boy did, James Harrison, was the most beautiful, legal hit," says Lewis. "If I'm a defensive coordinator, I'm saying, 'That's the way to do it!' Then they fine him $75,000 for doing his job. That's embarrassing for our game." (Lewis had an entirely different take on Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather's helmet-to-helmet hit on Baltimore teammate Todd Heap, which drew a $50,000 fine. "Totally illegal," said Lewis.)
Since he was 13 years old, Lewis has lived his life targeting other people with his body under a set of rules. In ninth grade he turned his helmet away from a tackle and injured his neck. "Never been the same since," he says. "You're taught to see what you're hitting. Don't turn. We're creatures who work with our heads and necks. But now you've got wide receivers cringing when they catch the ball, and you're already loaded and shooting your guns. So it looks like you're going for the head. My thing is to go low. Low man always wins. Pads under the other man's pads. Keep going lower or miss tackles. Maybe that's the formula they want."
And here the future Hall of Famer shrugs, because this is his game, and now his anger has turned to sadness.