Ray Lewis is regarded as the most dynamic leader in the history of the Ravens.
Moments after he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former players and coaches universally lauded those leadership skills.
Maybe it’s time for the Ravens to tap into that influence once again.
Coach John Harbaugh should consider bringing Lewis back as a coach, or perhaps as an advisor, this upcoming season. While Lewis has other responsibilities in the media, his mere presence would be an asset to the team.
The Ravens could use his energy.
“For 17 years, we could point to No. 52 and tell the other players: ‘Follow his lead. Practice like Ray practices. Prepare like Ray prepares. Be a great teammate like him.’ It was our privilege to have him as a Raven,” Ravens general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome said. “We are all better for having him here. His play on game days speaks for itself. Even in that small group who have the honor of being a Hall of Famer, Ray stands out. When you talk about the great players of all time, no matter position, he is among the greatest of the great.”
Lewis has not officially worked as an NFL coach since retiring in 2012 when the Ravens won their last Super Bowl. However, his attention to detail and ability to breakdown film should be a seamless transition.
Two players who could benefit most from Lewis’ influence are linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Both players had uneven rookie seasons, but still have a tremendous upside. Lewis could be instrumental in helping them better prepare in the offseason, during practice and in games.
Lewis embraced that mentorship role as a player.
“Not only a great leader to the whole team, but a mentor to teammates and players on other teams – and those playing other pro sports,” former Ravens safety Rod Woodson said. “His singular focus to be the best player and teammate he could be separates him from other Hall of Famers.”
Since retiring, Woodson has served as a defensive back coach for the Oakland Raiders.
While Lewis was the quintessential leader on defense, he also influenced players on offense. Lewis often yelled encouragement to quarterback Joe Flacco and the offensive line during tight games. Players on both sides of the ball embraced that enthusiasm.
“He is a guy we all looked to – both on offense and defense – to lead our team,” Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden. “He was definitely the catalyst for our 2000 Super Bowl team, and throughout the years, he helped define what it means to be a Raven.”
Despite Lewis’ potential positive influence, other coaches might feel undermined by such a strong personality. Harbaugh might be opposed to disrupting the team’s chemistry.
However, Lewis is worth the calculated risk. It just makes sense for organizations to keep their best players around the building.
“I believe my big brother is one of the greatest football players to ever put on a uniform,” said Ravens former safety Ed Reed, who could also be a first ballot Hall-of-Fame selection in 2019. “Everything he displayed about the game – on the field and off the field – by being a leader and a constant professional truly set a great example for those around him. Honestly, I think he could still play.”
Perhaps it’s a stretch for Lewis to play again, but he certainly is in a prime position to begin a coaching career.