The future Hall of Famer announced Wednesday that he’s retiring after this season, meaning he has one more theatrical pre-game dance left in him, one more playoff run.
And the focus for his teammates is to make sure that the run extends all the way to New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII.
“It’s very sad, but now the emphasis is on getting the job done,” outside linebacker
After missing the last 10 games because of a torn triceps, Lewis plans to be on the field this Sunday in the wild-card matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Lewis has spent the last 12 weeks aggressively rehabbing the injury to give himself the opportunity to come back for the postseason, and his hope is to bring home a second Lombardi Trophy before concluding his 17-year career.
“Wherever it ends, it ends,” Lewis said. “But I didn’t come back for it to end in the first round.”
His teammates share that same mentality.
“Ray is the face of this. Ray built this,” safety
“It’s about chasing rings,” wide receiver
Lewis told his teammates of his decision during a team meeting Wednesday morning, and the news hit the team hard.
Suggs spoke softly when he talked with the media and running back
“You just don’t prepare for these kinds of things,” Rice said. “That’s when it’s going to hit me the most. That’s when I think it’s going to hit the city of Baltimore the most, that it could be possibly his last time coming through that tunnel. Like I said, I just really can’t prepare for that.
“The emotions are going to be too rough to even think about because Baltimore is Ray Lewis, and when he comes out of that tunnel, everybody is electrified. There is no one else that is going to come out of a tunnel the way he does. There is no one else.”
Rice, one off Lewis’ closest friends on the team, spoke about the impact Lewis has made in his life on and off the football field.
“Mentally, he has raised me over the last couple of years,” Rice said. “My locker is right next to his, and I just can’t picture Baltimore without him. He has kids, but I was one of his kids. It’s like he’s passing the torch down saying, ‘I have to let you go.’”
After the announcement, Lewis sat quietly at his locker Wednesday while a number of teammates talked with the media in the locker room about the significance of the news. They shared stories about Lewis, recalled lessons that he taught them and emphasized the desire to provide a fitting ending to one of the most remarkable careers in NFL history.
“It means the end of an era, a phenomenal, amazing legacy,” linebacker
“What it really, really means is, how do we as a team bring an end to that legacy that it’s something so unbreakable that the story will be told forever?’”
That emotional postseason run begins Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, in a game that the Ravens hope puts them on a path to the Super Bowl.
“I don’t want it to be the last time I play with him,” Rice said. “I want to win to just keep it going as long as possible, because week in and week out, it’s a do-or-die deal. We want to win on Sunday.”