Two of the men closest with Ray Lewis – Head Coach John Harbaugh and safety Ed Reed – spoke for the first time since the legendary linebacker's decision to hang it up after this season.
Unlike many who were shocked by Lewis' announcement Wednesday, Harbaugh knew this was Lewis' "last ride" through conversations during the linebacker's rehabilitation from torn triceps. Reed said Lewis told him last offseason that this would be his final year.
Regardless of when they knew, watching Lewis actually deliver the news in front of the team, then the media on Wednesday, moved Harbaugh and Reed.
"I would say probably the most special day that I've ever been associated with as a coach," Harbaugh said.
"It's something that's going to be there forever. I'm humbled and blessed to be a part of it. Congratulations to Ray, and we are going to do everything we can to be at our very best coming out of that tunnel with him."
Harbaugh has coached Lewis for the past five seasons, and the two texted each other about every day after Lewis' triceps injury on Oct. 14. There have been questions about how much Lewis will play Sunday. Harbaugh indicated that Lewis will go the distance as usual.
"He's ready to go," Harbaugh said. "He's going to play in this game. He should be full speed."
The head coach, like many people around Baltimore, is eager to witness Lewis walk out of the M&T Bank Stadium tunnel for perhaps the final time Sunday. Harbaugh joked that he might have to record it on his phone or tweet about it.
"I think it will be historic," Harbaugh said. "I think it will be one of those moments, those special occasions, just like Wednesday was a special occasion, that we are never going to forget – any of us that love sports. We are never going to forget it."
Reed played alongside Lewis for 11 seasons, forming a duo that will surely* *have busts in the Hall of Fame together one day.
Before that, they'll make one final run at the Lombardi Trophy together. Lewis won it in 2001, but Reed didn't land in Baltimore until 2003, so the safety has yet to taste the Super Bowl. Reed said he and Lewis talked about that this offseason.
"I probably just told him, 'Here we go. Let's go at it and try to finish it on a great note and get to New Orleans,'" Reed said.
With Lewis retiring this week, there have been questions about whether Reed, 34, could also be on his way out. He's slated to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, meaning Sunday could also be his final game in Baltimore.
Reed declined to talk about his future, yet said Lewis' retirement has put things in perspective.
"All of us are going to have that moment where it's all over," Reed said. "To be part of Ray Lewis' career in my 11 years here with him, it's been amazing. I'm nothing without the D-line and the linebackers. Without Ray, my career probably is not the same."