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Ravens' Lewis dominating as retirement looms

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Ravens' Lewis dominating as retirement looms

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Ray Lewis sure doesn't look like an aging linebacker on the brink of retirement.

With 30 tackles in his last two games, the Baltimore Ravens defensive leader appears as if he could play at a high level for several more years.

That's not going to happen. In spite of his standout performance this month and the pleasure he's derived from Baltimore's run to the AFC championship game, Lewis remains adamant that he will retire after the Ravens complete their postseason journey.

``No, I can't come back,'' Lewis said Wednesday. ``My kids are calling for Daddy. It's a great reward to see the sacrifice my babies have made for me, and it's time that I sacrificed for them.''

The 37-year-old Lewis announced on Jan. 2 that he would retire after Baltimore's playoff run is completed. Since that time, he's provided his teammates with inspiration in the locker room and magnificent play on the field.

After being sidelined for 12 weeks with a torn right triceps, Lewis reclaimed his customary position in the middle of the Baltimore defense two weeks ago. Wearing a cumbersome brace on his right arm, Lewis led the Ravens with 13 tackles in a 24-9 playoff win over Indianapolis.

As an encore, Lewis had a team-high 17 tackles last week in a 38-35 double-overtime victory over Denver.

``He's a guy that still plays the game at a high level,'' Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones said. ``You would think he was 21, 22, watching him out there, flying around, making plays. Why not play hard for a guy like that? It makes you so (confident) on defense that you have a guy behind you that's a stud, that's going to make such a huge play and can make so many plays.''

With Lewis leading the way, Baltimore (12-6) will head to New England (13-4) this Sunday night for a chance to advance to the Super Bowl.

``He definitely can play multiple more years, but I think he understands that it's time to move on,'' defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. ``It's just great to see him play at a level that I don't think a lot of linebackers can be doing now. I'm just humbled and definitely lucky, I guess, to play with someone like that.''

Lewis can't cover a fleet running back or tight end in the same fashion as years ago, but he compensates for that shortcoming with extensive film study and by taking the most advantageous pursuit route. And if there's a tackle to be made, more often than not Lewis is going to be the one to put that player on the ground.

That, more than his motivational speeches, are what makes him so valuable to the Ravens.

``Ray's played well. That's the most important thing. He still can play,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``He's been playing his heart out for 17 years. He's a top linebacker in the game right now. He's made a difference for us.''

Lewis has no desire to hang around the NFL until some coach has no choice but to cut him, and he isn't going to pull a Brett Favre, who followed a magnificent career in Green Bay with forgettable stints with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.

In the future, when someone thinks of Ray Lewis' career in the NFL, they'll recall a 13-time Pro Bowl star who played only for the Ravens and with unyielding energy and resolve.

``He's changed the game,'' Patriots special teams star Matthew Slater said. ``I think he's been kind of a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation type player. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he's accomplished in his career. As a fan of the game, and I fancy myself a historian of the game also, so (I have) all the respect in the world for him.''

New England safety Steve Gregory added, ``He's one of the greats. He's probably one of the best linebackers ever to play this game. So we have a lot of respect for that guy. He's an amazing football player.''

This game will mark the final showdown between Lewis and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In nine games against New England, Lewis has 84 tackles - including 12 in last year's AFC title game.

``He's really been so consistent over the years and durable and tough,'' Brady said of Lewis. ``He's so instinctive. He doesn't give up hardly any plays, makes a ton of tackles. ... You always have to know where No. 52 is.''

Soon, you won't be able to find Lewis on the football field. His teammates haven't abandoned hope of trying to convince him otherwise.

``I told him to stay a few more years,'' Jones said. ``I think he could.''

But Ngata conceded, ``I think he has bigger plans and bigger things that he has to do.''

Walking off the field in Denver with running back Ray Rice last Saturday, Lewis was delighted to still be playing football and apparently not the least bit saddened about knowing he had one or two games left.

``I'm proud that the ride is still going,'' Lewis said Wednesday. ``I looked at my teammates after the Denver game, and me and Ray just sat there. We hugged on the field, and he grabbed me kind of hard. It's just special. To end it, whenever it ends, then so be it.''

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AP Sports Writers Howard Ullman and Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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