In preparations for his 10th Pro Bowl, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis spoke to the NFL Network Thursday and offered some insight into his pending dip into free agency.
For the first time in his illustrious career, Lewis will become an unrestricted free agent in three weeks if the Ravens cannot sign him to a new contract or use the franchise tag on him.
Team owner Steve Bisciotti had previously expressed hope that Lewis, the Ravens' second-ever draft pick in 1996 (behind Jonathan Ogden) would accept a "hometown discount," to stay in Baltimore, but that won't be the case.
"I don't play less," Lewis told the NFL Network's Jamie Dukes. "If you don't play less, you don't take less. That's just life."
Despite his 13-year career in purple and black, Lewis continues to play like an All Star. Bisciotti acknowledged that Lewis could potentially cash in elsewhere, but he is hoping that both sides can come to an agreement soon.
"I don't think that other people are going to value Ray Lewis higher than we do," Bisciotti said last month. "We know what he brings to the table. He's showing at 33 that he's capable of playing like a 28-year-old. So, I've got my wife on a budget already to try and save some money so we can sign him.
"Ray is not going to settle for something that he thinks is way below. Are we going to get a hometown discount? I hope so, I really do. I hope I get a discount so I can find another Jimmy Leonhard with the money we save."
Lewis was asked about two possible destinations – the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets.
But in Dallas, Lewis would be seen as a calming guide in a locker room that is continuously in turmoil. In addition, the Cowboys feature brash wideout Terrell Owens, who mocked Lewis after spurning a trade to the Ravens in 2004 and joining the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I can play with anybody," Lewis said. "I could definitely play with T.O. I think T.O.'s a great freaking person. I love him and his work ethic. Playing with T.O. is easy."
The Jets recently named former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan their new head coach. Even though Lewis and Ryan cannot speak while the linebacker is under contract per NFL rules, Lewis considered the notion.
"That opportunity by itself looks attractive," Lewis said. "That just sounds right. It's like, 'Wow, if something does happen where you're not back in Baltimore, the Jets wouldn't be bad.'"
Still, Lewis also admitted that the most attractive scenario is one where he returns to what he continued to call "my city" before he enters the uncharted waters of free agency.
"The uncomfortable thing about me is that I'm even having this conversation," Lewis said. "With everything I've given to that city, I've always felt that this is one conversation that I would never have and didn't want to have. That scenario in Baltimore … that's nothing I don't love about my city."