The stakes just got a little bit higher for the Baltimore Ravens when they take on the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in the first round of the AFC playoffs. News broke this morning that Ray Lewis told his teammates that it was his “last ride,” as the preeminent linebacker of his generation will hang up his spikes for good after the postseason.
Lewis tore his triceps back in Week 6 and it was feared he was lost for the season. However, Lewis vowed to return as he had an inkling that this may be his last season. At the time of the injury Lewis was still getting the job done. He was fourth in the NFL in tackles and was on the field for 453 defensive snaps, which led all linebackers.
Historically, Lewis will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history. His list of accolades and accomplishments is about as long as it gets. Lewis made the Pro Bowl 12 times, which is tied for most all time at linebacker with the late Junior Seau. In regards to active players, only the most decorated tight end of all time, Tony Gonzalez, has more trips to the Pro Bowl.
Lewis’ nose for the ball was the stuff of legends. His 50 career takeaways rank second all time for linebackers, just three behind Hall of Famer Jack Ham. He is the only player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions, truly displaying his disruptive nature over the course of his 17-year season.
He was the NFL defensive player of the year in 2000 and 2003 and the AFC defensive player of the year in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Lewis validated his career with the only championship in Ravens history, as he led the Ravens to the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXV. Lewis was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXV, as he claimed his spot as the top defensive player in the NFL at that time.
Lewis was also named to NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, as he, Brian Urlacher and Derrick Brooks were the first team linebackers.
With his hall of fame career all but completed, Lewis has a chance now to add one more Super Bowl to his unbelievable resume.
The Ravens entered the playoffs not looking like a top contender, but the lift Lewis will create for his team is immeasurable. To count out Lewis and the Ravens after today’s big news would be idiotic. Seeing how he has risen to the occasion numerous times in his career, it will be very interesting to see how the Ravens rally around their spiritual leader.
One thing is for sure, and that is the Ravens now have a chip on their shoulder. It will be fun to see how Lewis ends his storybook career and how his teammates will rally around him.
The road to the Super Bowl for AFC teams just got even tougher now with the Ravens having another reason to get the Lombardi Trophy.
Best of luck this Sunday, Andrew Luck and the Colts.
Follow James on Twitter @JT3Sticks