If Ray Lewis still played for the Ravens, he said this offseason would be fueled by the memory of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry rushing for 195 yards against Baltimore in the playoffs.
"If I'm anybody that's playing linebacker right now, I'm saying, 'Listen here man, Derrick Henry got to deal with me,'" Lewis said on "The Lounge Podcast". "That's a personal thing for me. I don't like the way it went down and I got to see him. I'm going to dedicate this whole offseason to the person that ended my dreams. That's what we did with (Tom) Brady. Prepare ourselves enough to get me back to that one position and lock that door and throw away the key. You ain't getting out of here this time. It's the process of never getting comfortable with losing."
Playoff losses hurt Lewis, but they never broke him.
Lewis' memorable locker room speech following a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 AFC Championship set the tone for the 2012 Ravens, who won the Super Bowl the following season. His address in New England was filled with powerful messages. Get back to work. Finish the job next year. Other people are dealing with more pain. The adversity will make you stronger.
"I'm watching people going crazy because we lost a big, big game," Lewis said. "Immediately, my perspective was like, 'We need a real word.'"
Now the Ravens find themselves in a similar situation following their shocking loss to the Tennessee Titans in the 2019 divisional round. After posting an NFL-best 14-2 regular-season record and riding a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs, they were knocked out in their first postseason game for the second straight year.
The Ravens have made key moves to fortify their front seven and run defense, headlined by adding veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and drafting inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. The Ravens remain a Super Bowl contender with a young talented nucleus.
However, Lewis knows how difficult it is to win a Super Bowl. After winning his first championship with the 2000 Ravens, it took Lewis 12 years and eight playoff appearances to win another. A Hall of Famer and a charismatic leader, Lewis learned not to be devastated by gut-wrenching playoff defeats. From 2008-2011, the Ravens made the playoffs every year but fell short of reaching the Super Bowl.
Great quarterbacks like Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger often stood in Lewis' way. Lewis mentioned Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans as two young AFC quarterbacks who will keep their teams in the hunt for Super Bowls as the Ravens try to win championships led by reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.
Last season, the Chiefs prevailed. Next season, Lewis believes it can be the Ravens' turn.
"We have to get better all the way across the board to finish it next time," Lewis said. "And it's the same things we went through. Whether it was '99 and didn't make the playoffs, or whether it was 2011 and a kick way, a catch away, a tackle away.
"What you do next defines who you are. I lost to Pittsburgh, I lost to New England, I lost to a lot of people. The key is, you've got to be okay with knowing that you're in a business that you won't win every game. That's factual. Kick yourself and let's go back to work. There's going to be one champ. There's going to be one person crowned at the end of this year. When it's your year, it's your year."