By Samuel Njoku
Everyone knew it would happen eventually, and yet the world was shocked anyway. Wednesday, future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis announced his retirement from professional football following the end of the postseason. The unquestioned leader of the Baltimore Ravens fought to recover from a torn triceps injury he suffered earlier this year. But with the Ravens back in the playoffs for the 5th straight season, Lewis is going for the gold for one last time.
“I talked to my team today,” Lewis told reporters on Wednesday. “I talked to them about life, life in general, and everything that starts has an end. It’s just life. And for me, today I told my team that this would be my last ride.”
Lewis’ announcement came as a surprise to everyone. The media usually get’s their hands on information like this before the player has a chance to hold a conference with the press. The news left both the media and players stunned.
“I shared my whole life story with him,” stated Ray Rice who was visibly fighting back tears. “There are a lot of things we’ve been through that we kind of related to – that’s what brought us really close. I know I’ll always have that connection where I can reach him outside of football. Just when you’re having that bad day, and you’ve got a guy right next to you, maybe you didn’t have to pick up the phone because he is right there. That’s where the emotion is with me. No matter whether it was football, life, whatever it was, he’s right there.”
For fans, Ray Lewis was always there. Since being the second player every drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Lewis has been the face of the franchise. Since winning their first Super Bowl in 2001, Ray Lewis has been beloved by the entire city. In his 17-year career, Lewis has the accolades that distinguish him as being arguably the greatest linebacker of all time. He is a Super Bowl MVP and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner. But Ray made it clear that’s not what he wants his career to be defined by.
“There’s no accolade that I don’t have individually,” Lewis stated. “But, I’ve never played the game for individual stats. I’ve only played the game to make my team be a better team.”
That’s what Ray Lewis hopes for as he enters the final chapter in his illustrious career. Baltimore has been an inconsistent group since losing Ray Lewis to his injury back in October. Baltimore has been a mediocre team (5-5) since Lewis was placed on IR. With Lewis, the Ravens were 5-1 including a questionable loss to Philadelphia. Many question whether Baltimore has what it takes to win a second Super Bowl title. Ray Lewis won’t be defined by what happens this season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to fight to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Baltimore.
“That’s one thing I shared with [the team] in that meeting: ‘I am going to give you everything that I’ve got, because this is our last one.’ And wherever it ends, it ends. But, I didn’t come back for it to end in the first round.”
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.