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Who Will Take Over Ray Lewis' Leadership Role?

Posted Oct 18, 2012

Ray Lewis has long been the emotional leader in Baltimore. Who can fill that void?


Not having Ray Lewis is more than just subtracting loads of tackles.

It’s perhaps even more about losing the team’s emotional leader.

While Lewis is sidelined with torn triceps, who will be Baltimore’s emotional catalyst? Who will give the emotional pregame speeches? Who will fill his role?

“Nobody,” safety Bernard Pollard bluntly said. “You get people trying to do that, you’re doing too much.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh called Lewis “probably the greatest leader in sports.” Lewis’ motivational speeches are the focal point of countless TV commercials and YouTube videos.

After 17 years in the league, fans and his teammates still marvel at Lewis’ passion. Opposing teams still stop to watch his pregame dance.

Harbaugh pointed to several other leaders in Baltimore’s locker room.

He named safety Ed Reed, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and fullback Vonta Leach, and added that “you replace [Lewis’s leadership] with 53 guys.”

But no player (either in Baltimore or perhaps around the NFL) does it the same way Lewis does.

Even Suggs, who returned to the practice field this week and is known for being vocal and playing with passion, can’t fully fill that role. McPhee said gaining Suggs doesn’t automatically offset the loss of Lewis.

“There ain’t no other Ray,” defensive end Pernell McPhee said. “Nobody can be that guy, that motivator who goes out with a lot of passion. Taking nothing from [Suggs], but Ray Lewis is Ray Lewis.”

There are other ways to lead, however.

Different players around the locker room said different guys would step up to help fill the void in their own way. Cornerback Jimmy Smith nominated veteran safety Ed Reed.

“We all know on this team that it’s kind of a rank in the leaders. Not kind of, it is a rank,” Smith said. “You’ve got our General [Lewis], and then you’ve got the next guy in line, and that’s Ed Reed. … So there’s going to be a little bit of a drop, but not much.”

Linebacker Albert McClellan pointed to Jameel McClain, who is expected to take over Lewis’ MIKE linebacker spot, and assume the defensive calls. McClain is a fast-talking, passionate player as well.

Rice (Little Ray) has been learning from Lewis (Big Ray) for the past four years as the two have shared many conversations at their neighboring lockers.

Ngata and Flacco are both more quiet leaders by example. Flacco has particularly assumed that role on the young offense, with teammates viewing him as the franchise player.

After undergoing surgery Wednesday, Lewis could also come back to the training facility and help motivate the team throughout the season.

As the NFL Films “A Football Life” documentary showed, Lewis returned to Miami last year when he was dealing with his toe injury that held him out for four games.

But he was with the team on game days, on the sideline barking out orders and in the middle of the pregame huddle. His teammates are expecting to see him back in Baltimore in some way.

“I know he’s still going to be around and in our ear,” said linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who is now expected to move into a starting linebacker position. “He just won’t disappear. It would be too hard for him because it wasn’t in his mind that he was going to leave right now.”

Pollard and McPhee echoed the same sentiment, feeling Lewis will still be around to pump up the team on Sundays.

“Ray is still with us,” Harbaugh said. “He will still be around. He’ll still be a part of what we’re doing. That is something that we will be fine with.”

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