Ray Lewis reportedly is already talking about coming back.
Don’t do it. What do you have left to prove? You are a 13-time Pro Bowler, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a member of the 2000s All Decade team, and a Super Bowl MVP. Take those accomplishments and see you in the Hall of Fame.
Spend the next year, not with the Ravens, but on the sidelines watching your son play ball. It’s never easy to say, but offensive coordinators started to see it: you are losing a step. They had a game plan – it was to run straight at you. And it was working.
Don’t come back. Let the last memories on the football field be the crushing hits. Let us remember the biggest motivational leader this city has ever seen since the days of Johnny U.
Fans, here it is. No. 52 is done, but he might not know it yet.
Lewis tore his tricep in Week 6 against Dallas and is out for the rest of the year. A torn tricep is a serious injury for football players because they can’t hold blocks or keep their arms extended. And that’s what a linebacker does, so this is bad for Lewis.
The injury requires surgery and rehabilitation. Lewis is one of five players to tear his tricep this season.
Lewis was at the Oakland game on Sunday when the Ravens humiliated the Raiders 55-20. He had no impact on the game physically. He had to watch from the stands. And he most likely will be doing that in another two years.
Lewis always has maintained a strong body. He largely has been injury resistant throughout his career. He has played less than 10 games in a season – only three times in his career. Lewis has played in the league for 17 years. The average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years.
He has another rare trait. His years of dominance as a linebacker are incredible. He has averaged more than 100 tackles in 14 years. The three years where he didn’t keep his average was because he only played six games or less.
Look at the list of the greatest middle linebackers to play the game:
- Willie Lanier – Kansas City Chiefs (1967-1977)
- Joe Schmidt – Detroit Lions (1953-1965)
- Harry Carson – New York Giants (1976-1988)
- Sam Huff – New York Giants/Washington Redskins (1956-1969)
- Ray Nitschke – Green Bay Packers (1958-1972)
- Chuck Bednarik – Philadelphia Eagles (1949-1962)
- Dick Butkus – Chicago Bears (1965-1973)
- Jack Lambert – Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-1984)
- Mike Singletary – Chicago Bears (1981-1992)
You see any of these guys playing 17 years? And many of these players simply played a year or two too long. What does Lewis want to play? Twenty years?
Incredible numbers and durability are great, but they can’t fight off age. Lewis has no comparable for a player returning from a serious injury at his age. His closest comparison is Peyton Manning, who had to sit out an entire season. Manning is back and leading the Broncos to what looks like a playoff berth. Great news for Lewis, right? Not so fast.
Ray Lewis is a linebacker, one of the most punishing positions to play. He is hit or hits on every play in every defensive series. He isn’t able to avoid hits by getting rid of the football or running out of bounds. His position is all about hitting people and hitting them hard.
Lewis also is impeded by the way he plays the game. Ironically, because he tackles properly, it will be harder on his injured arm. Not being able to fully extend an arm will cause missed tackle after missed tackle. Unless he plans to play like James Harrison and start leaving his feet to plant a shoulder in somebody, that triceps is in danger of being torn again.
Lewis is going to try to get out on the field next year. No debate about that. If he does, he will be ineffectual. A 38-year-old linebacker is already close to a defensive liability. A 38-year-old linebacker will have difficulty bending and straightening his arm. That isn’t something Ravens fans will want to watch. Ray Lewis may be a great player, but he is a great former player.
He is as great as Johnny U. Our last memory of him shouldn’t be of a beaten player – a mere shadow of his greatness sitting on the bench with eyes that mirror the past.