OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Much was made about Ray Lewis passing his long-held title of “The General” to quarterback Joe Flacco before the Ravens’ improbable 38-35 double-overtime win against the Denver Broncos, but the 37-year-old linebacker downplayed the significance of that moment on Thursday.
Speaking 10 days before Super Bowl XLVII, Lewis was asked about the pre-game exchange in Denver and the future Hall of Fame linebacker went on to discuss the leadership void that will be left behind for the Ravens to fill. He complimented Flacco’s stature and potential to take the reins of the franchise, but Lewis also expressed his desire for Flacco to become more vocal.
Lewis implied that he still isn’t ready to relinquish his title as team leader just yet, regardless of what he said in Denver.
“You always have a hidden agenda or reason why I do things. I knew for us to go in there and win that particular game that Joe Flacco had to play exceptionally well – which he did,” Lewis said. “To pass that along to him is whatever it is, and who knows who turns into that next leader here? There are a lot of guys that can definitely step in that role. But I think Joe has a great advantage and head start to really becoming that next true, true leader. He kind of has to come out of his quiet shell a little bit, but outside of that, Joe is definitely a great candidate for it.”
Speaking to the media following Lewis’ session at the podium, Flacco acknowledged what many have said about the linebacker’s retirement and how difficult it will be to replace that presence. Flacco’s not going to try to be someone he isn’t, but he believes he’s become more vocal over the course of his five seasons in Baltimore.
The leadership void left behind by Lewis must be assumed naturally over time, with individuals leading in their own unique ways, so for now, Flacco isn’t concerned about stepping outside his “quiet shell” to become a more vocal leader.
“I haven’t worked on it – don’t know if I agree with it,” said Flacco when asked about Lewis’ wish for the quarterback to become more vocal. “There are a lot of different ways to lead, and the bottom line is it’s about motivating your players to get the best out of them and having belief that you can go do it in any situation. And Ray does a great job of that in his own way, and I don’t know if there’s anybody quite like him in that category. In an effort to do something along the lines of the way he does it would be a mistake, just because I don’t think you’re going to live up to it.
“You’ve got to do it your own way, and I think naturally as you get more comfortable with people and people understand you more, and you become more confident in them, and they become more confident in you, you become more vocal as time goes on.”
In other words, we shouldn’t expect to see a dancing Flacco coming out of the tunnel or the quarterback giving demonstrative speeches during pre-game warmups next season, but it would be easy to see him voice his leadership a bit more with Lewis no longer in the picture.
Of course, a Super Bowl victory on Feb. 3 would likely eliminate any of the few lingering doubts over Flacco’s leadership ability after an already-brilliant playoff run this month.