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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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Ravens are releasing safety Tony Jefferson after three seasons in Baltimore

Ravens are releasing safety Tony Jefferson after three seasons in Baltimore

The Ravens are releasing safety Tony Jefferson after he spent three years in Baltimore, the team confirmed Friday.

The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was first with the news.

“This is the worst part of this business,” general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement released by the team. “Tony is the consummate teammate and someone who is respected by everyone for his leadership, determination, humility and toughness. He’s a friend to all and a true Raven.

"We know he’s going to beat this injury, and we will be cheering for him all along the way. We wish the very best to Tony and his family.”

 

 

The safety suffered a knee injury against the Steelers in Week 5 and was out for the remainder of the season. He was replaced by Chuck Clark, who shined in his new role and received a three-year contract extension on Monday as a result. 

The Ravens will save $7 million by releasing the 28-year-old safety. He originally had a cap hit of $11.65 million for the 2020 season and will have a dead cap hit of $4.65 million. 

Jefferson started each of the 35 games he played in Baltimore and registered a total of 174 tackles and two interceptions across his three seasons. He played nearly every defensive snap before his injury, only coming off the field during the blowout over the Dolphins in Week 1. 

He spent the first four seasons of his career in Arizona before he left for Baltimore and a four-year, 34 million dollar contract. 

According to overthecap.com, the Ravens will be left with a touch over $31 million in cap space after Jefferson’s release. In an offseason with Matthew Judon as a free agent, Jefferson’s release gives them a little bit more flexibility with their offseason plans. 

The Ravens now have Earl Thomas and Clark as the team’s two top safeties, but there are still questions that persist for the depth at that position with Jordan Richards, who recently signed a one-year contract extension, and DeShon Elliott as the team’s backups currently under contract. Brandon Carr, who played safety down the stretch for the team, has a team option for 2020. 

While the safety position certainly isn’t a need for the Ravens at this juncture, there will almost assuredly need to be some younger talent added to the position. 

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Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst suspended for violating NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy

Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst suspended for violating NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy

The Ravens will be without one of their backup offensive linemen to start the 2020 season, as James Hurst was suspended by the NFL for four games without pay after he violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Hurst made two starts and appeared in all 16 games for the Ravens last season. He played a total of 194 offensive snaps as a utility offensive lineman, predominantly used as a swing tackle and offensive guard.

Hurst, 28, who signed a four-year contract extension with the Ravens in 2018, is owed $8 million in base salary over the next two seasons, both of which carry a cap hit of $5.25 million.

He also has a dead cap hit of $2.5 million in 2020 and 1.25 in 2021, should the team decide to move on from the former North Carolina Tar Heel. The team would save 2.75 million dollars in 2020 should they release him.

Hurst has played 90 total games in his career in six years in the NFL, all of which were with the Ravens. 

The offensive line is slowly becoming more of a need for the Ravens with Hurst’s suspension. That’s in addition to Matt Skura’s recovery from a knee injury and the potential of Marshal Yanda’s retirement.

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