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The light is starting to shine': How 28 days in jail molded Jets’ Alex Lewis for his new starting role

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‘The light is starting to shine': How 28 days in jail molded Jets’ Alex Lewis for his new starting role

Updated 6:46 AM; Today 6:40 AM 

Professional athletes are full of one-day-at-a-time cliches. To some degree, that mindset is necessary to be among the world’s best at a given skill. It can also be a convenient crutch.

Count Jets’ new starting left guard Alex Lewis among the crop that actually lives it.

That’ll happen when you spend 28 days in Boulder Jail.

“It taught me so much I can’t even express it in words to guys," Lewis said. "It’s just something you go through and you’re going to learn on your own. Either you’re going to step up to the adversity or you’re going to fold.

"I’m not going to quit.”

In May 2013, Lewis decided to transfer from Colorado to Nebraska to finish out his college football career. Within a week, he was arrested in Boulder, Colorado for second-degree assault after a late-night fight. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 45 days; he wound up serving 28, thanks to good behavior.

But between the arrest and sentencing, Lewis made the move to Nebraska. It wasn’t until March 2014 that he finally learned his fate – and had to briefly walk away from football to serve his time.

Lewis walked into Boulder Jail at 300 pounds. Four weeks later, he left at just 272.

Going from 6,000 to 1,500 calories per day will do that.

Then, Lewis had to bounce back. He resumed life as a college athlete with eyes on a professional career.

So, no, losing a game or the starting role he once had with the Ravens isn’t likely to shake his worldview. It’s already been set in stone by those four weeks - and the months of legal proceedings and real-world headaches that led up to them.

“I’m in there trying to get money in my books from my family so I can try to get commissary – get those extra ramen noodles and Doritos, whatever the hell it was, just to try to maintain weight," Lewis said. "I’m making that trade to get that extra biscuit off someone’s tray, whatever it was. Physically it’s draining, but there’s nothing you can do about it other than to control your attitude.”

That’s what Lewis is trying to bring to the table in his new role with the 0-4 Jets and their shoddy offensive line – a healthy, relentlessly upbeat attitude.

“I think attitude is the biggest thing we have to be able to control right now,” Lewis said. “We have to be on an even plan. Ryan Kalil talked about it (during a players-only meeting Monday) – we have to be even across the board, we can’t ride the roller coaster. We can’t be too high on the highs, can’t be too low on the lows.”

Kalil isn’t the first longtime NFL vet Lewis has heard echo that mantra, either; Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda spent years doing it, too.

Lewis was drafted to play alongside Yanda in the fourth round in 2016 and quickly worked his way into Baltimore’s starting lineup; he played 10 games and started eight as a rookie. But he missed the final six weeks of that season due to an ankle injury – then had his 2017 erased by a shoulder issue.

2018 wasn’t much kinder to Lewis. He finally got back on the field, but managed just 10 games – again because of injury. The lone bright side was that a neck injury that was initially feared to be serious turned out to be relatively minor.

Still, that all of that physical turmoil put an end to Lewis’ time with the Ravens. This August, they decided to cut bait, dealing him to the Jets for a conditional seventh-round pick. In other words: He was traded for almost nothing.

Given his last six years, Lewis was unfazed.

“You start looking forward, a week, two weeks down the road, mentally you’re just going to drain yourself out,” Lewis said.

Instead, he dedicated himself to absorbing head coach Adam Gase’s system as quickly as possible and putting his head down, hellbent on creating an opportunity for himself down the road.

That chance came last Sunday, when Kelechi Osemele was too banged up to play against the Eagles.

On the whole, the Jets’ offensive line was catastrophic – but Lewis was a bright light among the misery. He received an 82.0 grade from analytics site ProFootballFocus.com, including an 88.2 pass-blocking mark, despite the 10 sacks his unit allowed.

It was the best grade given to any Jets offensive lineman during a game this season – by nearly 12 points.

Lewis will almost certainly start again this Sunday against the Cowboys; Osemele remains out of practice due to shoulder and knee injuries. But neither issue is considered serious. Osemele is expected to return eventually.

When he does, the 30-year-old former All-Pro will no doubt want his job back.

Lewis, as you’d expect, isn’t worried about the competition.


“The only focus I have right now is what I can do in the moment I have and take full advantage of it,” Lewis said.

That single-mindedness has worked the past five years, since the day he left Boulder Jail. It worked last Sunday, too.

Why change now?

“The light is starting to shine,” Lewis said.



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My feelings as to whether I feel sympathy or not for this guy would all depond on what he did and the circumstances of the assault and jail time.

He has paid the debt so its good for us that he has played at a high level so far but as far as being sorry for the guys earlier trouble.  All depends.

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1 hour ago, Beerfish said:

My feelings as to whether I feel sympathy or not for this guy would all depond on what he did and the circumstances of the assault and jail time.

He has paid the debt so its good for us that he has played at a high level so far but as far as being sorry for the guys earlier trouble.  All depends.


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If Im the Jets and the O Line keeps playing this bad I would trade away if possible 3 or even 4 of the oldest lineman we have that stink and pull 4 youngsters that have potential off practice squads and plug them in for the remainder of the season. You can bet that out of 300 or so current practice squad players there are 3 or 4 lineman in that group that not only have potential but can currently play at the level that our line plays. Of course keep Alex Lewis.

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JD’s trades so far

Conditional 2020 7th for Alex Lewis OG

2020 6th for Nate Hairston CB

2021 6th for D Thomas WR

Still kind of early to evaluate these guys fully. But that looks pretty solid. Keep those types of trades coming. Gase also did well with Lee trade. Hewitt and Cashman look better.


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20 hours ago, Spoot-Face said:

Yeah, spending any amount of time in jail seems like the perfect place to emotionally and mentally prepare yourself for a starting position on the New York Jets.


“Wow, that time in prison must’ve been pretty rough. How does it feel to now be a starter for the New York Jets?“


Lewis: “About the same as prison.”

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14 hours ago, TNJet said:




 Not bad, although the knock on Harrison has been that he’s not as powerful as you would want even at the center position. At guard this would be an even bigger problem. The reason Harrison got starts at center last year was that he’s pretty smart and a decent tactician at the center spot. That allowed the Jets to look past his less than ideal strength.

I’d like to see Chuma Edoga get some time on the field this year. 

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