Chapter 17: The Last Ride of 52

July 02, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

Robert Mathis. “I feel like I’m improving,” McKinnie said. “I got to improve in a hurry because I don’t have that much time left. I was trying to use that game just to get a feel for game speed and everything again and being in there for a long period of time. But I definitely feel like I’m getting better and I just feel better too.

McKinnie also complimented and thanked his brothers on the offensive line for their team spirit. “I’d like to thank Michael Oher, just for being a trooper and a veteran for moving back over to the right,” he said. “And you got to give props to K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] for being a rookie and pretty much having to learn guard again. I felt like everybody did a great job. Communication was great.”

The Ravens were headed back to Denver and for all of the storylines and playoff excitement in Baltimore, the real story was the end of a storied tradition, sendoff, and the march to win another Super Bowl for Ray Lewis.

“I think we’re all appreciative, grateful for the opportunity to be here and to witness this historic moment in sports,” Harbaugh said in the postgame afterglow. “And, it wasn’t just about one guy. Nobody understands it more than the one guy we’re talking about. It was about a team. It was about a city, a fan base, about a great sport, about a great career. I’m just humbled to be a part of it. It was a great victory.”

Lewis appeared emotionally spent at the end of it all.

“I just think it’s one of those things that when you recap it all and you try to say what is one of your greatest moments … 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 anything. There were so many moments today, so many fans and just the things that were said, the tears I was seeing from people, and I’m trying to hold it in myself, because I’m trying to play a game. [It was] just a very, very emotional day.”

“Everything I did to get back, if it wasn’t for my team, it was for my city. That’s one thing that I bought into from Day One. I’m not just here in this city to play football, I’m here to actually create real change in this city. If my effort can give you hope, faith or love, then so be it. I’ll give everything I have, and today was about me giving everything that I had, showing people that no matter the circumstances that you may be going through, just push through it. If you can push through it, you will encourage somebody. Today, hopefully through what I did today, somebody was uplifted.”

But through all of the dancing, tears, emotions, and family feel of the day, Lewis hadn’t lost sight of the big prize.

I’ve already turned my iPad in to get Denver film now,” Lewis said. “It’s onto the next one. That’s one thing about being in this business so long. I told them, ‘We don’t have the 24-hour rule now. We have a less-than-12-hour rule,’ because we are back to work. We know who we have next week. Denver is going to be well-rested. We saw them earlier in the year, but now we get them again with all of our guys back.”

And then Mufasa rested.