'DWTS' Couples React to Ray Lewis Withdrawing From Competition (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
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It's only week three of Dancing With the Stars, but two celebrities have already had to pull out of the competition this season.
First was Christie Brinkley (whose daughter, Sailor Brinkley-Cook, has proudly stepped in since premiere night), and now Ray Lewis is the next star to follow suit. During Monday's Movie Night, the former professional football player was unable to dance due to tearing three tendons that will require him to undergo surgery. Season 24 mirrorball champion (and fellow NFL star) Rashad Jennings took his place in the ballroom, dancing the Cha Cha with Cheryl Burke.
Just moments after the show wrapped, ET caught up with Ray, Cheryl and the remaining dance duos, who reacted to the athlete's abrupt withdrawal. Some of them also shared the type of precautions they are taking in rehearsal to avoid any further injuries this season.
Ray Lewis and Cheryl Burke
"We went back and forth on the phone at the house at times because I really wanted to push through -- I wanted to figure it out, like, 'Can I go?'" Ray recalled. "I had been dealing with the pain for a few weeks and once I got the MRI confirmation, reality just got real. Then I called my mom and she said, 'This time you need to follow your heart and not your head.'"
"It was just hard because I love -- I finish things!" he added. "It's a lesson, though right? I learned something from this ... I've lived like this since 2010 with a broken toe and now I can address that and so for me, man, I've been telling people, like, I really want to do this show again."
Cheryl agreed, telling ET she thinks we "need to do a season of injuries."
"There's been Jewel, Nancy O'Dell," she said. "Like I'm telling you, there's been a lot. People had to bow out."
Lamar Odom and Peta Murgatroyd
One of the couples most affected by Ray's shocking news was Lamar and Peta. The two were announced as one of the bottom two couples Monday night, along with Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson. When it was time for the judges to save one of the duos, head judge Len Goodman revealed that amid Ray pulling out, no one would be going home.
"I'm so glad that we didn't go home, I said that to [Lamar]," Peta said. "I was freaking out a little bit."
"I know if Ray had to leave the show, he must really be hurt," Lamar added. "But God is on his side, and I'm on his side as well. So, he'll be all right."
Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson
Like Lamar and Peta, Kel and Witney couldn't be happier about having the chance to stay in the competition. The comedian received some critiques about being too serious during his Titanic-themed Rumba, which judges may have brought up had they had to choose which bottom couple would go home.
"Yeah, I mean comedians can be serious, and I think they should give them that," Kel told ET. "We can play different roles so, I don't know. I think it's kind of spooking them out a little bit but I am a grown man."
Sailor Brinkley-Cook and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
The model had one perfect word for Ray's DWTS fate: "Devastating."
"I loved seeing Ray out there," she said. "He had incredible energy and he still does and we'll keep dancing for him."
Val agreed, telling ET that it's important for the dancers to "warm-up" before each rehearsal. "I think we know firsthand about injuries in this competition," he shared, referencing Christie. "For us, it happened before the premiere, but yeah, it sucks."
Kate Flannery and Pasha Pashkov
"I think this is a very serious group of contestants," The Office star shared. "I think people are really pushing their limits and I think it's great but there is that risk."
"I mean, you feel it, too," Pasha added. "Kate went to physical therapy probably three to four times this week. You have to take care of yourself because it's very easy to get hurt."
Luckily, Kate and Pasha had nothing to worry about Monday night, as they topped the leaderboard. Receiving a score of 24/30 from the judges, the two tied with Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber for the highest total score of week three.
"This is insane!" Kate exclaimed. "The fact that it's going so well is like a Christmas miracle in September. What is happening?"
Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber
Speaking about Christie and Ray's injuries, Ally joked that her "toes might be third."
"Believe it or not, y'all don't have to worry because they're not injured. They're just being covered because my feet hang out of these shoes, so we wanna make sure when I put them on the floor they don't scratch up," she explained, telling ET that it's just one of the many "tricks of the trade" she learned from Sasha.
Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten
"Dancing is a very physical and hard sport," Alan explained. "If you don't take care of your body -- even if you're a pro football player who is in the Hall of Fame -- you can get injured."
"I'm really proud now that Hannah, every morning, takes 45 minutes to warm up," he added.
James Van Der Beek and Emma Slater
While speaking with ET, James said he understands why there have already been two serious injuries. "Dancing's hard, man," he explained. "The punishment his body has taken his whole life. This is not for kids, it's tough."
"I think you just gotta really look after your body," Emma added. "And with Ray, I believe it was an injury that was kinda ongoing and just got worse and it doesn't surprise me because dancing, especially on the feet, is pretty strenuous. Unfortunately, we lost him in the ballroom but I wish him a speedy recovery, we both do, and I hope that he honestly makes a full recovery and then comes back and sees us."
Karamo Brown and Jenna Johnson
The Queer Eye star was trying not to focus on any talk of injuries, but couldn't help himself from getting a little distracted by the star-studded audience, which included his co-star, Bobby Berk, and Demi Lovato.
"I was literally about to go on stage and Demi Lovato was like, 'I love you, I love you,'" he shared. "Demi, I just want you to know I was going fast but I love you too. You are the world to me, everything that you do and advocate for your music, your beauty, your style. I adore you, please just know that!"
"Legit, I almost freaked out," he continued. "And you know what? I'm not going to blame my low scores on Demi Lovato, because Demi Lovato only deserves people to say how much we love her and what a 10 she is, so I will tell you this... I'm just going to slide into the DMs tonight so that Demi Lovato and I can become best friends. So that way, next week, I do her proud. That's it."
Sean Spicer and Lindsay Arnold
The former White House press secretary revealed to ET that this week was also "very difficult" on his body. "My left leg was not where it should be," he said. "We did a lot of ice, heat, copious amounts of [Advil]."
"But it starts to take its toll," he continued. "You're doing this every day for four hours. [Lindsay's] really good at reminding me to stretch and to ice down afterward. That's part of it -- you normally don't get into that routine -- but this is really demanding on your body."
Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko had to leave the press line early and therefore were not able to share their reactions.
ET broke the news just hours ahead of the show -- a source told us that Ray and Cheryl were planning to withdraw from the competition due to an injury that the athlete had sustained.
Hear more from the season 28 cast in the video below.