When linebacker Ray Lewis retired following the Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens didn’t just lose one of the greatest linebackers to every play the game, they also lost arguably the greatest team leader of all time.
In five weeks, the Ravens will begin training camp and nine starting positions will be up for grabs. Veterans and young players alike will be relied upon to step up and fill those roles, and perhaps one of the most important voids for the team will be filled naturally once camp begins.
For 17 years, finding leadership hasn’t been an issue for the Ravens. Now, for the first time in franchise history, someone new will have to step up and take over.
Because of Lewis, defensive leadership has reigned supreme for the Ravens. Two weeks ago at the Ravens’ Super Bowl Ring Ceremony, owner Steve Bisciotti tabbed quarterback Joe Flacco as the next leader of the team.
While a paycheck is a big indicator of how important a player is to an NFL franchise, there are others within the Ravens offense that wouldn’t mind being part of Flacco’s supporting cast of new leaders.
Upon his arrival into the NFL, running back Ray Rice was immediately taken under Lewis’ wing. Due to the fact they’re typically facing each other in practice each week, it’s uncommon to a strong bond form between offensive and defensive teammates. Still, that’s just what happened inside the Ravens locker room.
“A leadership role is something I definitely don’t mind taking upon now, because I was mentored by one of the greatest leaders probably ever to play the game,” Rice said, speaking of Lewis to Rick Carpinello of USA Today Sports. “A lot of his leading was by example, and when he spoke, everybody listened because they had respect for him.”
Leading by example is something that has shaped Rice’s image and earned him respect in not only Baltimore, but in his hometown of New Rochelle, NY. It was fitting that Rice was speaking about leadership at a charity event, given that he’s essentially taken that baton from Lewis, who was a fixture in the community the past 17 years, as well.
Standing just 5-foot-8, Rice is short in stature, which causes many of his teammates to look down at him. However, come training camp, given what he has shown throughout his first five seasons in the NFL, Rice will be someone that everyone will essentially look up to as the Ravens enter uncharted waters leadership-wise.