Now that Baltimore Ravens certain first ballot Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has announced that he’ll be retiring at the end of the season, many are pondering the post-Lewis Ravens.
What will they look like?
Will they lose their identity?
How will the Ravens replace Ray Lewis?
The simple and probably most accurate answer to the last question is, “You don’t!”
Ray Lewis is a one in a billion player. The Ravens will have to look to other areas of their locker room for leadership. Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs come to mind. But on whole, that’s a locker room void that will not be filled any time soon.
Some on a national scale have posed the question, “Who will be the next Ray Lewis?”
My answer to that is, “No one! The NFL won’t allow it.”
Clearly Ray is an uncommon leader. Casual observers from outside of Baltimore may view his words, his faith and his passion and disingenuous and as Ray simply playing to the cameras. Closer to home, here in Baltimore, we know otherwise.
And you can’t blame the doubters really. Ray is so unique that those not as connected almost can’t help but to raise an eyebrow of suspicion and question the sincerity. But his heart is so big. Ray believes so much in his purpose, his mission on Earth guided by devout faith.
That’s one side of Ray that will be next to impossible to replicate even from the youth who idolize him and hope to emulate him.
And then there’s the NFL. The league will indirectly stonewall any player’s ambition to be the next Ray Lewis. Seriously!
Why is it that so many around the league look up to Ray?
Why is he respected as much as anyone in the NFL?
There are many reasons for the R-E-S-P-E-C-T. But the one thing that put Ray on the map; the thing that inspired his peers to pause and take notice is his physicality on the field. All of those bone-jarring hits brought attention and once the attention was his, Ray showed the world his leadership, his dedication, his passion, his intelligence and his faith.
And then the respect meter just blew up.
Take a look at the videos below. Take a look at those hits. How many would be flagged in today’s pansy NFL? How many would have drawn fines? How many would trigger suspensions?
Then think about all the violations and the affect on Ray’s approach to the game. Do those tackles become shoestring takedowns? And when they go in that direction, do they show up on highlight reels? Probably not.
Without those highlights does the attention given to Ray change? Does that impact the level of respect for him and if it does, does it affect his elevated perch amongst his contemporaries and observers? Without that perch, is his message as relevant? Is it heard by as many?
Add it all up and the net result is that even if a player comes along to match all of Ray’s unique qualities, the changes in the way the NFL is policed will be a major deterrent, if not a complete roadblock in the path of anyone who aspires to be the next Ray Lewis.
To borrow from Ray, the “bottom line” is that there will NEVER be another Ray Lewis.
Roger Goodell, his cronies and their lame rules render any thought of “The next Ray Lewis” dead on arrival.