A few weeks back, I wrote a blog that I thought unveiled a plan in which Ray Lewis could someday be heralded as the greatest defensive player of this era. It was simple. The plan called for Ray to win one more Super Bowl, giving him two – the same amount as Lawrence Taylor – and then, and perhaps only then, could #52 lay claim to the title as “best ever”.
After watching last night’s season opener vs. the Bengals, I’m absolutely positive that Ray only needs to earn one more ring to wrestle that “best ever” crown off the head of LT. Last night, he did something that perhaps LT never did – he hoisted a defense up on to his back with one arm and carried them around for 30 minutes in a demonstration of heart and grit that we all might have overlooked if not for the fact that he was wearing purple and he’s “our guy”.
It’s one thing to play hurt. Guys in the NFL – and every other sport – do that day in and day out. Playing hurt is one thing. Playing disabled is another. You don’t think it’s hard to function with one arm? Put your right arm in a sling this afternoon and walk around for six hours and see how your life changes. I had left elbow surgery in November 2005 and I couldn’t use my arm/hand, etc. for two months and I’m telling you, it was an eye opening experience.
Ray played the final 48 minutes of last night’s game with one arm. And he outperformed everyone else on the team while doing so.
After the game, Ray told reporters he has a torn triceps muscle. Let’s hope Ray is wrong. Typically – and there are varying levels of serverity when it comes to injuring the triceps muscle (read about it here) – a player’s season is over if he, in fact, tears his triceps muscle. Hopefully Ray’s future isn’t in medicine and his self-diagnosis is wrong.
Because if Ray is done, so are the Ravens. That is, if Ray is done for the year, so are the boys in purple.
Ed Reed? Great player. Chris McAlister? Pro Bowl Player. Terrell Suggs? One of the best pass rushers in the entire NFL. Bart Scott? Outstanding player. Haloti Ngata? Monster. Trevor Pryce? Very important to the team.
But those guys can’t get to Arizona in February without Ray leading the way.
I had to laugh last night when Chad Johnson had all the lights in the stadium turned on him after his TD catch so he could sport that silly “H.O.F.” jacket. What a clown. Yeah, Chad talks a lot. And so does Ray Lewis. But do you know the difference in those two? Very simple. When Chad Johnson talks, player’s laugh. When Ray Lewis talks, player’s listen.
Chad Johnson looked a little like Ray last night, in all honesty. On about five throws, Gold Member looked like HE had one arm…or sometimes NO arms…or sometimes ALLIGATOR arms.
Back to the issue, though. What happens if Ray IS, in fact, out for an extended period of time or – gulp – the entire season? (By the way, for the record, I’m predicting he plays next Sunday…but there IS a chance he suffered a severe injury last night). The Ravens can survive without Jon Ogden, even though it would force Marshall Yanda into a prominent role a season too early. As much as I think Steve McNair still has productive football left in him, the team would also survive with Kyle Boller at the helm if McNair’s groin strain is serious enough to keep him out 2-4 weeks. I don’t think Boller can take the team to 11-5, but I do think he can win what should be winnable games in September regardless of who takes the snap from Mike Flynn.
But that all changes if Ray can’t go. What’s the difference between a Ravens team without Ogden, McNair or Ray?
Ray makes people around him play better. If you don’t think that’s true, I have one name for you: Ed Hartwell.
Everyone on that defensive side of the ball has Ray Lewis to thank for some portion of their salary, even C-Mac, who would rather eat a rusty nail than admit that to anyone. Ray makes players better. And that makes HIS team better.
He’s a warrior and a leader and when that whistle blows to start the game each week, there’s no guy in football that brings more to the table for his team than #52.
What a tragedy it would be to see the entire season get thrown into the incinerator one week in. Sadly, if Ray isn’t around, the Ravens won’t be able to handle it over the long haul. They’ll pinch together for a week or two and win a game here or there and everyone will say, “life goes on without Ray”, but in the end, life WILL go on but the Super Bowl run won’t.
No Ray, No Way.
Let’s just hope we don’t get to find that out.