Chapter 17: The Last Ride of 52

July 02, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

by coming out and saying, ‘You all deserve this first. You guys deserve this first that I’ve ran my course with this.’ Now, I’m overwhelmed telling you inside out. The emotions are very controlled, because I never redo one day. I never try to redo one day. Every moment I’ve ever had in this building, what this organization has done for me, what this city has done for me, what my fans have done for me, what the mutual respect for different players have done for me around this league, I can never take any of that back. That’s the ultimate when you leave this game. You leave it with one heck of a legacy. Hopefully, I’ve done a heck of a job doing it, but it’s time for me to go create a different legacy.”

Suggs said he came to work expecting Lewis back on the field against the Colts, but wasn’t emotionally prepared for the shock of a retirement speech. “It was sad,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. It affected me, because for the past 10 years of my career, I’ve been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays with the man. It definitely affected me a little bit. When he went up there [in the team meeting], I thought we were getting our ‘let’s go on a run to the playoffs’ speech. Not that.”

“It caught me by surprise, because we all thought the Great Ray Lewis was going to play forever. I thought he was going to surpass Brett Favre and still be out there doing it well into his forties. Only he knows. Do not be fooled. All of us have that day coming. Just like an NFL player’s career, there is a sunrise and there’s a sunset. He let us know that the sun is setting for his career. He gets the opportunity to start doing things he didn’t get to do, like going to his son’s football games – things like that we take for granted that are priceless. It’s amazing. It’s amazing, and it’s sad all at the same time. Come Sunday, it will be the last time, potentially, he and I will be at M&T [Bank Stadium] together. Like I said, it was very sad, but now the emphasis is on getting the job done. It’s going to be one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember.”

His young protégé Ray Rice was crestfallen and got emotional when following Lewis to the podium. “He’s never actually told me,” Rice said. “He’s always hinted that one day he is going to close the chapter on this game. But today, I definitely didn’t prepare for it. Mentally, he has raised me over the last couple of years. My locker is right next to his, and I just can’t picture Baltimore without him. He has kids, but I was one of his kids. It’s like he’s passing the torch down saying, ‘I have to let you go.’ But I know he is always going to be there. It’s just one of those days where you just don’t prepare for these kinds of things. Emotions, everything, we could talk about all that.”

“No added pressure, but we will give all we’ve got Sunday for Ray [Lewis]. We owe it to him. We owe it to the organization. He’s done it for 17 years. What he gave to this city, what he gave to his fans, what they’ve given back to him, it’s something that I got to witness – not only got to witness it, [but] I was right inside. These moments that he always talks about that will never be again, finally it’s real. Sunday will be Sunday, but this week will be a different kind of week, especially for me. I’m right there in the corner with him. I told him jokingly that I’m not speaking to him for a week. I’m a little upset at him.”

Rice was the young guy who had benefited from all of Lewis’ pay-it-forward counseling. From Shannon Sharpe, who got it from John Elway, and Rod Woodson who got it from Chuck Noll, Ray Lewis was now giving it to Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, and any of the other young Ravens bucks who wanted to gather, listen, observe, and learn. Along the way, Lewis became Mufasa, the one who all of the children listened to not only in Owings Mills but around the NFL. Lewis felt an obligation to younger players.

Lewis was very reflective and emotional in trying to put into words a day he had never truly prepared to articulate. “I used to sit back, and I used to marvel, rest in peace, at Junior Seau’s legacy, and how he had his run, how he ran at it, Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl,” said Lewis in referencing one of one of the game’s sad tragedies in recent years, the suicide of a legend within his brotherhood. “I’m like, ‘Wow. Who does that?’ How can you be at that level?’ And then I started making my own mark, and then I realized that I can do a lot of things to be great individually, but I wanted to be known differently. I wanted to make men better. I wanted to figure out ways to challenge men to not let the game dictate your emotions and not let the game dictated if you are mad, you’re glad, you’re sad – no. Be who you are as a man. Walk with who you are as a man and be OK with being a man. So, my whole focus changed, kind of almost in the middle of my career, and I was blessed. I was blessed to have a [former Ravens] Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe. I was blessed to have Tony Siragusa. I was blessed to have Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary. I was blessed to have some great guys who took me up under their wing and said, ‘This is the way you should pray about life. This is the way you should live life.’ My legacy now is [that] when I listen to people, when I hear people call me with whatever is to, ‘Thank you for doing this for me. Thank you for doing that for me.’ If that’s my legacy, if helping people [is my legacy], then so be it. Going forward, the world is my oyster. God has created so many opportunities for me. There are a lot of things that I have always put on hold for the game that I could never do because of the game, because I would never put anything in front of the