There’s a sanctity to the locker room and team meetings. What happens there, stays there.
That’s why I tread lightly when telling you about Ray Lewis speaking to his teammates and coaches on Wednesday morning when he announced, “This is my last ride.”
It would be disrespectful to tell you all that I saw and heard, but my hope is that I can give a glimpse of these solemn moments in Ravens history without lessening the importance of the brotherhood of the team.
John Harbaugh opened the team meeting at 9 a.m. He outlined the plan to beat the Colts. Basically through his words and his PowerPoint presentation, he said: “This is what we have to do to beat the Colts.”
When Harbs finished, he pointed to Ray Lewis and said: “You’ve got one thing?”
The 17-year veteran stepped out of his seat and walked to the stage at the front of the room, wearing jeans, a black pullover and a black skullcap.
Ray shoved his hands into his front pockets and started: “Ah, let me see…”
We could all sense this was a serious moment.
“A word comes to my mind right now: Loyalty,” Ray said. “Loyalty and then commitment. If we want to make this run, what is our loyalty to each other, our commitment to each other?”
Ray then said some things that should remain private, but I will say that he reminded the players that, “Now is the time to put everything else on the side and commit to each other.”
Lewis paused, looked at the ground, and then, bringing his head up to scan his 2012 Ravens teammates, he said: “This is my last ride.” And then he repeated those words in a softer voice: “This is my last ride.”
He then explained that he fought so hard to come back from his triceps tear for one reason only, “I only thought of one thing – to come back to my team and win a Super Bowl together.”
He said that “17 years is enough” and “that I can’t put my kids through this no more. They need their Daddy, and I promised them I would be there after this final run.”
Lewis pointed at Coach Harbaugh: “Coaches have done their part. This is five years in a row for Harbs. They got us here. It’s now up to us to take the next steps. All I want is for us to realize how good we can be. Let’s be who we are.”
When he closed his speech, Ray said: “The only team that can beat us is us. I appreciate every man in this room, and I’m going to give everything I got. One last time – you’ve got everything I can give.”
With that, Ray stepped off the stage to applause from his team, his brotherhood.
Shannon Sharpe And Ray
Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was here yesterday on behalf of the CBS-TV pregame show. He wanted to interview his good friend Ray Lewis, who has declined all one-on-one interviews since announcing his “last ride.” We told Shannon and his producer that before they came to Baltimore, but Shannon wanted “Ray to look me in the eyes and say ‘no.’” (And Ray did, with a smile.)
It reminded me of one of my favorite “Ray” stories. It was during training camp at McDaniel College in August of 2001. I was on the Stairmaster when Ray, Shannon and Rod Woodson walked into the room to lift weights together.
Consider that trio: three surefire Hall of Famers.
Shannon immediately started giving Rod a hard time: “You can’t do what we do.” Woodson shot back: “If you guys come to my offseason workouts, you would crumble.” They then started an intense lifting regime. I started thinking: “There’s the difference. This is what separates these guys from mere mortals and other athletes.”
They went to an arm curl machine. “Alright, we’re doing 15, three sets. I’ll go first,” Sharpe said. Shannon and then Ray powered through them like nothing.
Woodson stepped up. “You guys are bigger than me,” Woodson said. “Go,” retorted Sharpe. You could see that it was a struggle for Rod, but he found a way to get through it – or, so I thought.
“We’re doing 15,” Lewis said. “I did 15,” Woodson replied. Ray then stared at Rod: “Woody, you did 11.”
Without saying a word, Rod went back to the machine, did four more and then added another. “I’m ahead now.”
I’ve told this story before, but it’s one of my favorites. I was reminded of it when Ray Rice, with emotion, spoke to the media on Wednesday about his friend Ray Lewis’ “last ride.”
The two Rays met on the first day of minicamp in 2008, Rice’s rookie season. After a morning practice, little Ray grabbed a tray in the cafeteria line on his way to lunch. The man behind him said: “Ray Rice, I’m Ray Lewis, and I love the way you play.”
After Rice called him “Sir,” and big Ray said, “none of that,” Lewis then recalled a Thursday night Rutgers game that Rice starred in. You could tell that Rice was flattered. Then the senior Ray put his hand on Ray’s shoulder and said: “Young man, you should pull up your pants. We don’t wear them like that around here.” Rice dutifully pulled his shorts up higher.
I reminded Rice of that recently, and he said: “He was right. My pants were too low, and it was time for me to grow up. They haven’t been low since.”
Ray Lewis And Joe
One other thing leaps out at me from that minicamp. After that first practice, I saw Ray Lewis in the locker room. He was smiling. “What are you smiling at?” I asked. “We got one. Ozzie (Newsome) did it. That No. 5 is the real deal. That arm, and you could tell it’s not too big for him.”
Yes, Ray has great respect for
And, now it’s the playoffs. It’s one and done. Every game with everything on the line. The Colts are at M&T Bank Stadium. How good is that! It will be intense. There will be great emotion. I can’t wait. Let’s beat the Colts.
Talk with you next week.