He couldn’t play forever. Of course, after watching him roam the defense for Baltimore Ravens as the spiritual and physical leader for 17 years, many of us wouldn’t have bet against Ray Lewis playing into his 40’s.
Today, in a not surprising but somehow still strangely shocking announcement, Lewis told the media that he had just informed his teammates he’s walking away from the NFL at the conclusion of this Super Bowl drive. Several times during his media session, Lewis had to stop and control his emotions. Ray Rice followed him to the podium and welled up twice.
The reaction from his teammates was a mix of pressure, emotions and the reality that no one wants to be the reason Ray Lewis ends his career without another championship.
I wrote about the life and times of Ray Lewis two seasons ago in a three-part series.
Obviously, this announcement will take months — and maybe years — to digest for the Baltimore Ravens and everyone in the organization and the city.
There will be statues. There will be Hall of Fame ballots. There will be a bronze bust in Canton in five years. There will be “Thank You Ray” days and a Ring of Honor enshrinement.
So, for a few hours today, everyone will share a Ray Lewis memory.
But the fact remains that Lewis’ former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will be bringing the upstart Indianapolis Colts into Baltimore on Sunday and suddenly it could be No. 52’s final hours in an NFL uniform.
Ray Rice had a hard time internalizing that and had to choke back tears on Sunday.
Chance are, he won’t be the only one.
One more reason the Baltimore Ravens need to win on Sunday and continue this now-final drive to get Ray Lewis another chance to dance with the Lombardi Trophy before he rides into the purple sunset.