Ravens

Quick Links

Ray Lewis to retire after playoffs

201301021220444241081-p2.jpeg

Ray Lewis to retire after playoffs

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) It seems almost impossible to imagine the Ravens without Ray Lewis, who has anchored Baltimore's renowned defense ever since the team came into existence.

For 17 years, Lewis has been stalking opposing quarterbacks and running backs. He inspired his teammates with emotional speeches, proudly donned his No. 52 jersey on Sunday afternoons and did everything in his power to help Baltimore win.

Soon, all that will only be a memory. In a stunning announcement Wednesday, the two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year said he will retire after the Ravens complete their 2013 playoff run.

``It caught me by surprise, because we all thought the great Ray Lewis was going to play forever,'' Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. ``I thought he was going to surpass Brett Favre and still be out there doing it well into his 40s. He let us know that the sun is setting on his career. It's amazing and it's sad, all at the same time.''

When Lewis gathered his teammates together Wednesday morning, no one had a clue what he was about to tell them.

``Everything that starts has an end,'' the 37-year-old Lewis said. ``For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride.''

The reaction was stunned silence.

``I thought we were getting our `Let's go on a run in the playoffs' speech,''' Suggs said. ``Not that.''

Lewis has been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps. He intends to return Sunday to face the Indianapolis Colts in what will almost certainly be his final home game.

And when he does his trademark dance after emerging from the tunnel, Lewis will receive an ovation 17 years in the making.

``That moment I walk out of that tunnel Sunday, every person that was a Ravens fan - 1996 to this day - we will all enjoy that moment,'' he said. ``It will probably be one of the glorious moments in my life.''

Lewis is poised to walk away from the game because he wants to spend more time with his sons. While working to return from his injury, Lewis watched two of his boys play on the same high school football team in Florida. He intends to see Ray Lewis III perform as a freshman next year for the University of Miami, where Lewis starred before the Ravens selected him in the first round of the 1996 draft.

``God is calling,'' Lewis said. ``My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years. I don't want to see them do that no more. I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it's my turn to give them something back.''

That's why Lewis will pull off his uniform for the last time after the Ravens lose or claim their second Super Bowl title.

``It's either (that or) hold onto the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times we can be spending together,'' Lewis said. ``Because I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship Daddy is going to be there, I can't miss that.''

Lewis was the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2000, the same season he was voted Super Bowl MVP following Baltimore's 34-7 rout of the New York Giants. Lewis was also Defensive Player of the Year in 2003, and is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 career sacks and 30 interceptions.

``I never played the game for individual stats,'' Lewis said. ``I only played the game to make my team a better team.''

After the Ravens moved from Cleveland, Lewis was drafted 26th overall in Baltimore's first draft. He became a fixture at middle linebacker and a beloved figure in Baltimore, and remained that way even after his alleged involvement in a double-murder in Atlanta in early 2000.

In June of that year, a judge approved a deal allowing Lewis to avoid murder charges and jail time by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and testifying against two co-defendants. Within a year, Lewis was in the Super Bowl, leading the Ravens to their only NFL championship.

Hundreds of games later, he's ready to call it a career.

``I'll make this last run with this team, and I'll give them everything I've got,'' he said. ``When it ends, it ends. But I didn't come back for it to end in the first round.''

The news of his decision to retire quickly resounded throughout the NFL.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who served as Lewis' defensive coordinator last year, said, ``I thought, shoot, the guy could play forever and would play forever. Great person, great man, great player, just an unbelievable human being - what he's done for that organization, that city and for that matter, so many people. He's obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will be sorely missed.''

Marvin Lewis, now Cincinnati's head coach and Lewis' first defensive coordinator in 1996, said, ``He's had a tremendous career, tremendous impact. His mentorship to other players, his leadership is hard to describe.''

The two men met last Sunday before Baltimore's game against the Bengals. Marvin Lewis recalled, ``I said to myself, `He doesn't look a day older than when we drafted him.'''

Lewis was respected by his peers, too, even those who were on the receiving end of his crushing tackles.

Green Bay defensive standout Clay Matthews said, ``I know guys around the league - offense, defense, special teams - look up to him because of how he goes about his business and the influential role he has not only for his team but around the league.''

Lewis is the key figure in a defense that has long carried a reputation for being fierce, unyielding and downright nasty. He led the Ravens in tackles in 14 of his 17 seasons, the exceptions being those years in which he missed significant time with injuries (2002, 2005, 2012).

When Lewis tore his triceps against Dallas, it was feared he was done for the season. But he would have none of that.

``From the time I got hurt, everything I've done up to this point has been to get back with my team to make another run at the Lombardi (Trophy),'' he said.

Well, not everything. Lewis spent time watching his boys play football, which caused him to call his rehabilitation ``bittersweet.'' After spending countless hours from Monday through Thursday working to return from the injury, he hopped on a plane toward Florida to be with his boys.

``I got to be there every Friday,'' Lewis said. ``Me being who I am, not having a father myself, that damaged me a lot. I didn't want my kids to relive that.

``One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from my teammates. But the now I'm going to step into other chapters of my life.

``I knew I couldn't split my time anymore. When God calls, he calls. And he's calling. More importantly, he calls me to be a father. It's OK to be Daddy. Yes, this chapter is closing, but the chapter that's opening is overwhelming. That's what excites me the most.''

Lewis could have made the announcement during the offseason.

``I think my fans, my city, I think they deserved for me to just not walk away,'' he said. ``We all get to enjoy what Sunday will feel like, knowing that this will be the last time 52 plays in a uniform in Ravens stadium.''

---

AP Sports Writer Joe Kay and National Writer Nancy Armour contributed to this story.

Quick Links

John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson's playoff performance

John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson's playoff performance

Coach John Harbaugh, just six days after his team’s disappointing 28-12 loss to the Titans in the AFC playoffs, has already had to defend his quarterback.

Faced with some criticism after Jackson finished 31-of-59 passing, and three total turnovers, Harbaugh mentioned how far Jackson has come in the last year — which also ended in an early playoff loss at home.

“It’s really interesting to look at Lamar Jackson, because look at the progress he made in the last year,” Harbaugh said Friday. “Because the same question, I think you might have asked it last year, how is he going to get better going forward? And he did a good job, right? He’s 23 years old. He’s younger than Joe Burrow. So, he has a pretty good head start right now.”

Jackson is now 0-2 in the playoffs with a 19-3 regular season record. 



He’s likely the MVP this season after he passed for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards, setting the single-season rushing record for a quarterback along the way. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns and carried the most prolific offense in the league to a league-best 14-2. 

Harbaugh isn’t worried that his quarterback, who is just 23-years-old, hasn’t found his playoff success yet.

“The Manning brothers combined to, they had five losses in their first five playoff games before they won one,” Harbaugh explained. (Joe) Montana, (Steve) Young and (Brett) Favre didn’t start a playoff game until their third season, (Drew) Brees and (Troy) Aikman, until their fourth season, and (Aaron) Rodgers until his fifth season.”

After the season ended, Harbaugh added that Jackson went to his office to discuss the offseason and what he needed to do to improve. 

While Harbaugh and the offensive coaching staff had a plan for Jackson to improve, Jackson “nailed” each and every single critique that the coaches had laid out for him.

“I’m really confident in Lamar and his understanding the things he needs to do to get better, and that he’s going to work really hard to keep building himself up as a player,” Harbaugh said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Harbaugh reflects on resting starters: 'I might go the other way' next year

Harbaugh reflects on resting starters: 'I might go the other way' next year

If the Ravens can pull off winning the AFC North division title three years in a row, their starters might be on the hook for Week 17 next time around.

In head coach John Harbaugh's season-review press conference on Friday, the Ravens leader of 12 years was asked if resting his starters in Week 17 vs Pittsburgh contributed to their AFC Divisional Round loss to the Tennesse Titans. 

"I mean, we didn't play well," he said.

Harbaugh went on to explain how he dove into the numbers of football's past in order to make decisions ahead of hosting the Steelers in their regular-season finale. The Ravens ultimately won 28-10 before two weeks off and then losing to Tennessee, 28-12.

"You look at the history, and I did that, went back and looked at the history," Coach Harbaugh said. "And the history is about 50/50. You know, teams have held their guys out and won and then won the Super Bowl. Teams have held their guys out and lost. It's gone both ways. We held our guys out and won and we won the Super Bowl [in 2012]. I was probably leaning on that in all honesty."

"Going forward after this, I might go the other way, you know?" Harbaugh offered. "Right now, if I had to do it today, and it's next year and we're in this situation, God willing we're in the same situation, we'll probably go the other way in all honesty."

Analytics can only tell you what has happened in the past, not what will happen next. A predictive guide at best, resting starters is likely best exercised as a case-by-case, team-by-team situation.

Since coming to Baltimore in 2008, Harbaugh has only been faced with this specific decision twice, establishing a 50/50 track record himself. It worked for the Ravens in 2012 as they went on to beat the 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.

It did not work in 2019. 

"The disappointment ... is that we didn't play our best football," Harbaugh continued. "That's the thing that really sticks to us. We're way better than what we played in both those games, and we're gonna have to grow from that." 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: