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Lewis gets to dance again after Ravens playoff win

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Lewis gets to dance again after Ravens playoff win

BALTIMORE (AP) After dancing before and after the game and making a team-high 13 tackles in between, Ray Lewis took a lap around the stadium to thank the fans of Baltimore for their support over the past 17 years.

It was an unforgettable afternoon for the 71,379 in attendance, players from both teams and most of all, the man in the middle.

Lewis intends to retire after the Ravens complete their playoff run. On Sunday, he did his part to ensure that his last home game wouldn't also be the final chapter of his NFL career.

``I knew how it started, but I never knew how it was going to end here in Baltimore,'' Lewis said. ``For it to go the way it went today, I wouldn't change nothing. There were so many moments, so many fans, just the things that were said. The tears that I saw from people, and I was trying to hold it in myself trying to play a game.

``Just a very, very, very emotional day,'' Lewis said.

Deftly battling his emotions and opposing linemen, Lewis helped the Ravens beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 in the opening round of the playoffs. Although the 37-year-old middle linebacker dropped a sure interception, his performance - and the emotional lift it provided - was a key component of the victory.

Lewis finished up by entering on offense, 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage as Baltimore ran a kneel-down to wrap up the game. As the clock ticked down to 0:00, he broke into his trademark dance.

``It was a neat moment, wasn't it?'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Wearing a brace on his right arm, Lewis played for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas. He had seven tackles in the first half, including one in the Indianapolis backfield on running back Vick Ballard during a blitz.

Early in the second quarter, Lewis had a deflected pass in his grasp with designs of taking it into the end zone. But he dropped the ball, and many in the sellout crowd uttered a collective groan.

Upon being reminded of the drop, Lewis chuckled and said, ``I'll never live that one down. I'm going to put that one on the brace because I tried to put my arm up but the brace wouldn't come up.''

He wanted to remove the brace during the game, but thought better of it.

Good idea.

``I didn't feel pain,'' Lewis said. ``I didn't hurt it one time.''

Baltimore will next travel to Denver to face the top-seeded Broncos on Saturday.

There was some question as to how long Lewis would last in his first game action in three months. But the aged warrior appeared as fresh as the day he played his first game back in 1996.

``I thought he played exceptionally well,'' Harbaugh said. ``It's always funny to hear people say, `Well, he's not the same that was 10 years ago.' Well, who is?''

Lewis may have lost a step over the past decade, but he's still good enough to lead a playoff team in tackles. And to some, it was as if Lewis was 27 again.

``He was himself. He was the same guy you've seen for the last 17 years,'' teammate Cary Williams said. ``He was the guy who led the huddle, just like always. We followed right behind him because we believe in him.''

With Lewis leading the way, the Ravens held the Colts without a touchdown. It was only the second time this season that Indianapolis failed to score in double figures.

As the clock approached the two-minute warning, fans behind the Baltimore sideline chanted in unison, ``Thank you, Ray!''

Then, with 1:57 left, the scoreboard aired a montage of Lewis' finest plays, including several crushing hits. He responded by clasping his hands together over his head, tapping his heart and waving.

Minutes before the opening kickoff, Lewis thrilled the sellout crowd during introductions by coming out of the tunnel and gyrating to the tune ``Hot in Herre.''

Hundreds of fans had their cellphones raised to either take a picture or videotape the moment. The players were captivated by the scene, too.

``I'm sure everyone was affected by it,'' Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. ``We all wanted to play for him and make sure it wasn't his last game.''

Lewis does the dance only before home games, and this was Baltimore's last this season at M&T Bank Stadium. Asked if he might consider a reprise if the Ravens reach the Super Bowl, he sheepishly declined comment.

After concluding pre-game warmups, Lewis addressed the entire team on the 5-yard line. After his short speech, Lewis hugged a few teammates, mingled with family members beyond the end zone and jogged to the sideline, where he engaged in a lengthy embrace with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Thousands of fans were wearing No. 52 jerseys. Lewis has been a fan favorite in Baltimore since he was selected in the first round of the Ravens' initial draft in 1996.

Ken Malik, 61, wore a purple Lewis jersey and a broad smile.

``It's the end of an era for the Baltimore Ravens,'' he said. ``He's been a great player. He's stood for what the Baltimore Ravens are and what they have been since they (came) to Baltimore.''

There is no age limitation for fans of Lewis, who made his NFL debut when Kylie O'Neill-Mullin was 4. She was wearing a long black tunic with Lewis' number on the front and back.

``This is a big deal. It's the last time he'll come out of the tunnel,'' she said. ``It's the last time he'll play on this field. I'm excited to be here.''

One fan had a sign with a purple heart and the No. 52 in the middle. Earlier, a helicopter flew overhead with the No. 52 painted on its undercarriage.

Lewis was elected to 13 Pro Bowls and is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He told his teammates on Wednesday, ``This will be my last ride.''

One fan in the crowd had a sign that read: ``Let's Ride To New Orleans,'' site of the Super Bowl. Two more wins, and the Ravens will be there.

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Five storylines to watch heading into Ravens training camp

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USA Today

Five storylines to watch heading into Ravens training camp

Ravens training camp is only days away and things are heating up in Baltimore. Sophomore Lamar Jackson has been given the keys to the offense while head coach John Harbaugh confronts a roster filled with new faces.

Some have the Ravens penciled in the playoffs, while others see them as a six-win team. With so much up in the air, so here are the most important storylines set to unfold heading into training camp. 

What to expect from Lamar Jackson

By far the biggest storyline of training camp, everyone is wondering how Lamar Jackson will fare this season. Set out to prove he's not a one-trick-pony, Jackson's been working to improve his accuracy and pocket awareness while learning new coordinator Greg Roman's offensive scheme. Jackson is undoubtedly the biggest factor for the Ravens' success this season. 

Looking different defensively

Terrell Suggs. Eric Weddle. C.J. Mosley. All three of them Pro-Bowlers a year ago, all three left in the offseason. One of the top defenses in the NFL last season, coordinator Don Martindale has a lot on his plate. With the addition of All-Pro Earl Thomas, however, they've got a chance to return to form. 

Rookie wide receivers to have a major impact

After undergoing Lisfranc surgery in February, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is on the non-football injury list to start training camp. Brown's speed and playmaking ability command respect from the defense even when hampered and Miles Boykin, the third-round pick out of Notre Dame, is also expected to contribute off the bat for a team desperate for depth at receiver. 

Replacing Suggs and Smith

After letting go of Suggs and Za'Darius Smith last offseason, the Ravens have to replace 15.5 sacks if they want to remain a top defense in the NFL. Linebackers Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser and Matt Judon will all have to step up, while the secondary, headlined by Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey, will have the opportunity to contribute with coverage sacks. 

Feeling right at tight end

Perhaps their deepest position, the Ravens are going to look to their tight ends frequently this season. Hopefully, Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst (health provided) can continue to develop chemistry with fellow sophomore Lamar Jackson. Throw Nick Boyle into the equation, and the Ravens have one of the top tight end units in the NFL. 

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Wawa chooses the Ravens as new partners, much to the chagrin of Philly fans

Wawa chooses the Ravens as new partners, much to the chagrin of Philly fans

The world's best convenience store/gas station/sandwich shop has partnered with the Baltimore Ravens. 

Yes, Wawa is now the “official hoagie” of the Ravens. 

It's the partnership that Ravens' fans didn't even know they needed. If there is a lottery, the Ravens just won.

As Wawa celebrates its 50th year in Maryland, there will be several promotions that fans will be able to partake in. Opportunities to win tickets to games, co-branded merchandise, and unique experiences are just a handful of benefits Ravens fans can now take advantage of. You'll also see a lot more of Wawa at M&T Bank Stadium.

Choosing Wawa over Royal Farms (and that other store Sheetz) is clearly a top-tier partnership between two of the biggest brands in the Baltimore Metro area. And there is no doubt that there could not be a more perfect partnership between an NFL franchise and a convenience shop. 

"Wawa is thrilled to partner with the Ravens to make deeper connections with some of the best fans in football and reach communities all over the city of Baltimore and beyond,” Adam Schall, the senior director of store operations for Maryland said in a press release.

Our friends over in Philadelphia are not enthused:

But it is simple: the better store went with the better team. 

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