Steve Bisciotti Gives Real Reason Ray Lewis Retired
You couldn't write a better storybook ending to Ray Lewis' football career.
He rode off into the sunset with a Super Bowl ring after a miraculous return from what was originally believed to be a season-ending triceps tear. Every NFL player dreams of finishing on top, but Lewis is one of the few who actually did it.
But was that the reason he retired?
Many have wondered whether Lewis would have returned for another season had the Ravens not brought home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Steve Bisciotti assures us that is not the case.
In an interview with Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi, the Ravens owner gave a behind-the-scenes account of Lewis' decision to retire. But apparently Lewis had made that decision in the middle of the season, in the middle of rehab.
In fact, Bisciotti tried to convince Lewis to take more time to mull over retirement just in case he wanted another crack at a Super Bowl run if the Ravens didn't win it that year. (Bisciotti spoke briefly about his before to USA Today Sports) back in 2013, but not to this extent.)
When asked point-blank if he thought Lewis would come back if Baltimore hadn't won Super Bowl XLVII, Bisciotti emphatically replied, "No."
"I remember he told me he didn't want to tell the team for about a month," Bisciotti said about Lewis' phone call to him while he was in the Bahamas. "I said, 'Do me a favor. Leave yourself time – by us keeping it quiet you have a month to decide before you tell the players.
"And I said if it's going to be a month, [John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome and I will] keep it close and it will give you an opportunity to change your mind because you have to acknowledge that this is a terrible time to make this decision, when you are grinding back the way you have [been]. To come back from an injury that would have sidelined people for five months and you're trying to [come back in] 10 weeks."
Lewis was already confident in his decision, but Bisciotti said the future Hall of Fame linebacker heeded his advice and kept it quiet. Bisciotti said when Lewis eventually did tell his teammates they were all genuinely surprised. Nobody was thinking about retirement at the time because the question on everyone's minds was whether Lewis was going to be able to make a comeback.
"I really do think the players were shocked when he told them," Bisciotti said.
The reason Lewis was so confident in his decision was because of the intense work and long hours he put into recovering from his triceps tear. He wanted to finish his career healthy, and knew he didn't want to go through that process again.
"[Lewis] said to me just before his announcement, 'You have to understand that while I've been training and recovering 20 hours a day I realized that I can't do it anymore,'" Bisciotti explained. 'I can't come back from another injury and I won't take a chance on walking away hurt. But I know through this rehab that I can't do it again. And so I'm protecting myself against that inevitability.'
"And that clarified for me that it wasn't disparate thoughts. That it was formed off the experience that he was going through. And he didn't want to walk off the field limping never to be seen again."
Lombardi has been releasing his interview with Bisciotti in installments. The owner has already talked about purchasing the Ravens, and Lombardi teased the next episode below. While I'm excited to read about Bisciotti's vision for the future, I'm mostly impressed by this Photoshop work below …
Bisciotti: Coaching Is Beneath Lewis
One last tidbit on Lewis from Bisciotti …
While Ravens fans would love to see Lewis come back to the organization to help develop and inspire young players as a coach, Bisciotti doesn't see that happening.
In fact, Bisciotti seems to prefer that it NOT happen because, he says, it would be beneath what Lewis is capable of.
"I figured that he had a higher ceiling than this motioning to the Ravens headquarters],” Bisciotti said. “I didn’t see us being able to tap all of his energy and vision in a coaching position. I thought that [would be beneath him.
"Would you rather have anybody else in the middle of Baltimore in the middle of those riots? That kind of says it all. You can talk about ESPN and they're paying him more than I pay linebacker coaches. And he's free to explore dozens of business opportunities all at the same time with that job that is not a full-time job."
Offensive Stability Could Be Huge In AFC North
After losing Gary Kubiak, Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels, it feels like the Ravens offense has undergone major changes.
But as The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec points out, Baltimore will actually enjoy quite a bit of offensive stability in 2015 as the unit gets nine of its 11 offensive starters back.
"[That] is significant in the salary cap era," Zrebiec wrote.
The Ravens will need all the benefits that come with that continuity because two of the Ravens' top AFC North competitors – the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals – are also bringing back virtually the same starting offenses from last season.
Zrebiec believes the team that best capitalizes off their promising offense could end up with the 2015 division crown.
"[T]he winner might just be the team that's able to build off the offensive numbers that it put up last year," wrote Zrebiec.
Which Free-Agent Acquisition Will Make Biggest Impact?
The Ravens were just being the Ravens this offseason, signing under-the-radar free agents to help supplement the foundation of the team.
Three of the most notable were safety Kendrick Lewis, cornerback Kyle Arrington and backup quarterback Matt Schaub. ESPN asked its writers from the AFC North to debate which of these additions will have the biggest impact in Baltimore.
The hope among Ravens fans is that Schaub doesn't have a chance to impact the team too much, because if he's on the field it means Joe Flacco isn't. If Flacco can continue his seven-year streak without missing a start, that will limit Schaub.
So that mostly leaves the debate between Arrington and Lewis. There's an argument to be made for each.
"Lewis will make the biggest impact," wrote Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler. "He fits the Ravens' identity the best. He's a tough player who offsets his lack of speed (recorded a 4.73-second 40 time) with run support, good hitting ability and ballhawk skills. He has recorded nine interceptions and five forced fumbles in five seasons. Lewis is durable, too. He has started 66 of 69 games played. Arrington is a smart pickup and has started games for the New England Patriots, but it's interesting to me that New England wouldn't pay what the Ravens did (three years, $7 million) despite its obvious need for cornerback help after the departure of Darrelle Revis."
Bengals reporter Coley Harvey countered in favor of Arrington: "I'll go with Arrington. The former undrafted free agent still has a few years left in his career, and he certainly has ability remaining even if the Patriots weren't keen on keeping him around. His tackle numbers were down in 2014, but he also missed a couple of games for the first time since his rookie year in 2009. Baltimore needs help in its secondary, and Arrington's addition ought to be noticeable."