On September 6, 1995 one of the greatest moments in Baltimore sports history occurred. Prior to the bottom of the fifth inning, as Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gherig’s streak of 2130 consecutive games, he essentially ran a victory lap around the field.
As it’s likely that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will play his last game in front of his home crowd this Sunday, a 2131-esque atmosphere will certainly be evident at M&T Bank Stadium.
But will a victory lap be soon to follow? One Ravens superstar may have hinted at the possibility of #52 taking a page out of Ripken Jr.’s book.
“It’s been a very rough week for me,” Ravens running back Ray Rice said when talking about his reaction to Lewis’ retirement announcement. “I need a hug, a victory, and Ray Lewis to do a victory lap on Sunday.”
Rice spoke about his relationship with Lewis during Dinner with Ray Rice hosted by 105.7 The Fan’s Rob Long and me at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Dundalk.
Emotions have been high in the Ravens locker room since Lewis announced his retirement – it was something many of his teammates expected but still weren’t ready for when they actually heard the announcement.
Surprisingly, Lewis told Rice about his intentions to retire weeks ago, during a phone call while Lewis was rehabbing at his home in Florida.
“This was on the phone…if it’s not in person, I don’t believe it’s going to happen,” Rice said. “Me and Ray talk about about some very eventful things on the phone that never happen, I’m not saying he was lying, they just didn’t come true just yet.”
Rice mentioned that he had called Lewis after the elder Ray had watched one of his son’s football games, and Rice relayed that his mentor was just so enthused with the opportunity to watch his son play. When speaking about Lewis addressing the team during his retirement speech, Rice said, “I’ve heard it before, just in bits and pieces, not all together.”
“Hearing that announcement was just like, you can’t mentally prepare yourself for that,” he said. “It’s like something that you know is going to happen internally to your family – you know it’s going to happen but you’re just not ready for that day.”
Even though they were words Rice didn’t want to hear, Lewis’ message came at a perfect time.
“Some people ask, ‘why did he mention it right now?’ I think it was the perfect time to say it,” Rice said. “He watched us go through adversity, he watched us lose four out of the last five [games] and still win the AFC North. You’ve got to take the good out of the bad.”
“The Ravens are a team of destiny, we’ve been through a lot,” Rice said to a crowd full of cheers.
The audience of over 200 Ravens fans that packed inside Jimmy’s Famous Seafood were treated to over an hour of honest talk straight from Rice’s heart. There were plenty of laughs to go along with Rice’s words and story telling, especially when it came to the topic of Lewis’ “squirrel” dance.
When asked if Rice would use Lewis’ dance during an endzone celebration as a tribute to his friend, he said, “somebody beat me to the punch, Jacoby Jones said he was going to do it.”
“I did ask Ray, if I could do it with him coming out on Sunday,” said Rice. “But, I told him, I wanted to let the floor be his, give him his moment. So, if you see me do it and I fall out, just know I’m going to get back up and be ready to play.”
Rice is beginning to prepare himself for life in the NFL without one of his teammates and mentors. He already has a few things planned out for next season.
“I already told coach [John Harbaugh], he can’t put anybody next to me next year,” Rice, whose locker is beside Lewis’ in the Ravens locker room, said. “I’m not being selfish, I’m not even going to double the locker, I’m not going to do what he does to me and put piles of shoes in my locker, I’m not going to even put anything over there. They’ve got to keep #52 on there, I won’t let it get cobwebs. I’ll still have them clean it, but if I’m having imaginary conversations, you know why.”
Rice is back preparing to face the Indianpolis Colts on Sunday as the Ravens play their playoff opener. The game will be emotional for all, but Rice understands he still has a job to do if he’d like to extend Lewis’ career by as many games as possible.
“After, he does his dance, it’s time to go to war,” Rice said. “You don’t get your own street named after you in Baltimore for nothing. What he’s done here, I’m trying to follow in his footsteps.”
With all due respect, there will never be another Ray Lewis, but for Ravens fans, it’s great to see a man like Ray Rice respect his legacy and carry it on with the fans in his absence.