The past handful of seasons, Ray Lewis has often dodged questions regarding his future and how long he’ll be able to extend his Hall of Fame career.
On Wednesday, that wasn’t the case.
As he has done so many times before, Lewis gathered his teammates in an effort to motivate and inspire those in his presence. His peers received Lewis’ message – but it wasn’t the one that they were expecting.
In fact, they were shocked.
Lewis informed his fellow teammates and coaches that he would retire at the conclusion of the Ravens’ playoff run – an announcement that most figured would eventually happen sooner rather than later but weren’t expecting at the given time.
The fact that so many – even those closest to Ray – were caught completely off guard by the announcement makes you wonder why he chose to do it when he did. To borrow from Lewis…”bottom line,” he knows exactly what he’s doing.
After spending twelve weeks of aggressive rehabilitation on a torn triceps muscle and practically defying common medical knowledge to get back on the field, Lewis’ next challenge is to motivate his teammates to play for something special, something greater, than just the thought of a Super Bowl ring.
Lewis will never admit it, but the reason he chose to disclose his retirement plans now could be to use himself as a ploy and give his inconsistent 10-6 team something to play for.
The Ravens have won four consecutive games twice so far this season and will need to do it once again if Lewis will ever have the chance to raise the Lombardi trophy again. In order to advance to the next round, they must overcome a very motivated 11-5 Indianapolis Colts team that looks to extend a storybook season at the Ravens’ expense on Sunday.
Unless both the Ravens and Bengals make a run through their first two playoff games, Lewis’ final game at M&T Bank Stadium in front of 70,000 purple clad fans will be on Sunday. While playing at home is special for any NFL legend, Lewis’ entrance and subsequent “squirrel” dance is good enough that even opposing teams stop warm-ups to watch.
It just seems wrong that a player who is almost as big as the franchise would walk off the field without fans knowing if it was the last time they’d ever see him play. There is a reason M&T Bank Stadium has one of the most threatening home field advantages in the NFL and that reason is Ray Lewis.
He has inspired a fan base and a city plenty of times before but Lewis’ decision to announce his retirement at the end of the season as the team prepares for a playoff run was a well orchestrated move. At a time where the team needs more inspiration than ever before, Lewis may have pulled off one of his greatest feats.
And, if the Ravens come up short, at least the fan base knows that if they want to watch #52 walk out on the field one last time in Baltimore, they’ll have that chance on Sunday.
It just seems right.