NEW ORLEANS — It was the quintessential Super Bowl XLVII surreal sideshow – part news conference, part infomercial conducted by Mitch Ross, the "Deer Antler Spray guy," who was backed into a corner and grilled for an hour Friday by 40 reporters outside the media center.
"Deer antler," said one passerby when his girlfriend asked whom the reporters were grilling.
The Super Bowl XLVII spin doctor was in. And the visit proved as wild as it looked. The only thing missing from the bizarre scene outside the New Orleans Convention Center was that a New York Jets player was nowhere to be found in this circus.
The co-owner of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids told Sports Illustrated that upon Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis' request, he provided him with products that helped accelerate his return from an Oct. 14 torn triceps.
Ross, 45, was asked directly Friday if Lewis, who made a remarkable recovery to return Jan. 6, asked Ross for deer antler spray, which contains the league's banned substance IGF-1.
"No," Ross said.
He was asked if he had proof that Lewis put the spray his mouth.
"I've never seen him put it in his mouth," Ross said.
Ross said he instead sent Lewis an arm-band system to help strengthen his arm, "right after the cast came off."
Ross added, "It's unfortunate that I'm getting death threats from Ravens fans. I got duped by Sports Illustrated.
"They catfished me. They dated me for two years and then made me look like a goofball. I'm trying to make right the wrong, let Ray play his football game and go into retirement.
"Ninety-five percent of the athletes, once they get what they need from me, they throw me under the bus. 'I don't know that guy. I didn't do this. I didn't do that.' "
Does Ross feel Lewis did that?
"I'm not going to talk about that."
Lewis has denied using the spray, saying during Tuesday's Media Day, "I'm going to say it again: That was a two-year-old story that you want me to refresh. I wouldn't give him the credit to mention his name or his antics in my speeches or my moment."
Ross clutched a copy of Sports Illustrated and opened it to show a picture of a bottle of his deer antler spray with the amended label reading: "Snake Oil For Sale."
Ross said his young daughter saw the article and said, "Daddy, that's not your label."
"Ray was right about one thing that this whole story: This whole slander was the tactic of the devil," he said.
"I thought Sports Illustrated was going to be my Holy Grail. But what did they do? They derailed me.
"Ray Lewis said the other day that I worked with him before the story ran, two years ago. That's all I'm going to say."
Lewis announced before returning for Baltimore's wild-card win against Indianapolis that he planned to retire whenever the Ravens' season ended.
Ross came with an assistant who videoed the entire exchange, and Ross had a bag at his side packed with his line of products, which he took turns showing off.
Only hours earlier during his annual news conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he expects HGH testing to be agreed to with the players union before the 2013 season.
Ross said the deer antler velvet spray containing IGF-1 is a naturally occurring equivalent to human growth hormone and it is naturally produced in several food products.
"It's in steak and in milk; there's nothing synthetic," Ross said. "Everything I do is natural. I have a doctor in Hawaii ready to go on air with whoever wants to interview me and this doctor, the No. 1 natural IGF-1 guy in the world that will tell the world that this will reverse the symptoms of ALS."
Ross said he started working with Lewis in 2008 in return for his endorsement for his chips, essentially silver stickers athletes attach to their bodies to boost "endurance and stamina."
He said he shipped 600 chips to safety James Ihedigbo to distribute to Ravens players before their playoff wins against the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. The chips are not banned by the league.
"The guys who work with me are doing it the right way, not the Lance Armstrong way," Ross said.
"Natural IGF-1 is not banned (in the NFL). Except Vijay Singh and I found out that antler velvet is on the banned substance list in the PGA."
Singh said in statement Wednesday that he had used the product and was "absolutely shocked that deer antler spray may contain a banned substance." The PGA Tour has said it is looking into the matter. Singh withdrew from the Phoenix Open the following day, citing a back injury.
Ross said he texted Lewis earlier this week to say, "God Bless."
A reporter from USA TODAY Sports saw that Lewis was in Ross's text queue. Ross said Lewis didn't text him back.
If Ross could speak to Lewis, what would he tell him?
"Go win. Don't let this affect you. God is good. He knows my heart."
Does God want Ross to cure ALS?
"I believe he does."