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Teammates 'Owe' Ray Lewis A Legendary Finish


When Ray Lewis runs out of the tunnel Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, it will possibly be for the final time in front of the home fans.

The future Hall of Famer announced Wednesday that he's retiring after this season, meaning he has one more theatrical pre-game dance left in him, one more playoff run.

And the focus for his teammates is to make sure that the run extends all the way to New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII.

"It's very sad, but now the emphasis is on getting the job done," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It's going to be one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember."

After missing the last 10 games because of a torn triceps, Lewis plans to be on the field this Sunday in the wild-card matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Lewis has spent the last 12 weeks aggressively rehabbing the injury to give himself the opportunity to come back for the postseason, and his hope is to bring home a second Lombardi Trophy before concluding his 17-year career. 

"Wherever it ends, it ends," Lewis said. "But I didn't come back for it to end in the first round."

His teammates share that same mentality.

"Ray is the face of this. Ray built this," safety Bernard Pollard said. "For us as his teammates, we owe him. We owe the city of Baltimore. We owe our coaches, our families. Let's make this thing great."

"It's about chasing rings," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "If you have a conversation with him, he never talks about the individual awards, the accolades.  He always talks about trying to get another trophy, another Lombardi. We have an opportunity. That's all you can ask for at this point. We're one of 12 teams who have an opportunity to go out there and try to get it, and we want to send him out the right way."

Lewis told his teammates of his decision during a team meeting Wednesday morning, and the news hit the team hard.

Suggs spoke softly when he talked with the media and running back Ray Rice was choked up when asked about Lewis coming out of the tunnel for one last time.

"You just don't prepare for these kinds of things," Rice said. "That's when it's going to hit me the most. That's when I think it's going to hit the city of Baltimore the most, that it could be possibly his last time coming through that tunnel. Like I said, I just really can't prepare for that.

"The emotions are going to be too rough to even think about because Baltimore is Ray Lewis, and when he comes out of that tunnel, everybody is electrified. There is no one else that is going to come out of a tunnel the way he does. There is no one else."

Rice, one off Lewis' closest friends on the team, spoke about the impact Lewis has made in his life on and off the football field.

"Mentally, he has raised me over the last couple of years," Rice said. "My locker is right next to his, and I just can't picture Baltimore without him. He has kids, but I was one of his kids. It's like he's passing the torch down saying, 'I have to let you go.'"

After the announcement, Lewis sat quietly at his locker Wednesday while a number of teammates talked with the media in the locker room about the significance of the news. They shared stories about Lewis, recalled lessons that he taught them and emphasized the desire to provide a fitting ending to one of the most remarkable careers in NFL history.

"It means the end of an era, a phenomenal, amazing legacy," linebacker Jameel McClain said. "I tried a million times to explain what the feeling was like when you felt it, but I just can't.  I just can't. Maybe one day down the road I will be able to. Right now, I can't. What it means right now is the end of a legacy.

"What it really, really means is, how do we as a team bring an end to that legacy that it's something so unbreakable that the story will be told forever?'"

That emotional postseason run begins Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, in a game that the Ravens hope puts them on a path to the Super Bowl.

"I don't want it to be the last time I play with him," Rice said. "I want to win to just keep it going as long as possible, because week in and week out, it's a do-or-die deal. We want to win on Sunday."

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