Baltimore Ravens

Ray Lewis

Like him, hate him, respect him, loathe him. Wherever your views on Ray Lewis as a human being may fall, it’s nearly impossible not to be awed by him when it comes time for your team to play his Baltimore Ravens.A lot of NFL fans detest Lewis, because it is believed that he – at very least – had a guiding hand in the taking of a life and that his money and athletic talent got him off free and clear. It just isn’t right. He doesn’t belong in professional sports. He should be wearing those ugly damned prison coveralls and pounding big rocks into little rocks.

Then you see him on an interview or read about him doing something off the football field and you can’t help but be struck by what an thoroughly likable guy he is. He respects and adores his mother. He still loves and sees the friends he had as a kid. He smiles damn near constantly. He’s polite. It’s just hard to actually see the man out of uniform and not want to be his bestest best buddy.

But all of that doesn’t particularly matter to the world of football. You’re feelings about Ray Lewis as a human being have no power to alter what he does once he suits up and steps out on that playing field. As with so many non-sports sports stories, it’s just irrelevant.

In `02 Ray Lewis missed 11 games due to injury.

In `03, coming off of shoulder surgery, he posted 120 unassisted tackles; the 3rd highest total of his career. He also snagged 6 INT’s and defensed 7 more passes. Doesn’t seem like much? Only six defensive backs — the guys who are actually paid to intercept footballs — had more than six INTs. Only eight other DBs even matched Lewis’ total.

I have occasionally heard Ray Lewis compared to guys like Bill Romanowski. You know, the kind of player that you wish many bad things upon, unless he plays for your team. And in that light I suppose the comparison is fair.

But in many ways it isn’t.

It’s true that like Lewis, Romo had a passion, a love for the game and commitment to being the best he could be. But where Lewis is possibly the most gifted athlete to ever play at any LB position – very possibly at any position at all -, Romo spent a lot of years playing above his physical talent. Lewis intimidates with an insanely intense personal energy that never seems to flag. Romo had to rely upon a dirty streak that made even his fans cringe at times.

Lewis doesn’t have to play dirty, because his extraordinary physical gifts, his endless emotional intensity and his unbridled passion are more than enough to put the fear of Ray into almost any opposing player (or coach or even fan for that matter).

In addition to all this, he is unselfish and never seeks glory for himself. Ray Lewis may be the most gifted and valuable player on his team, but that team has known the success that it has because Ray Lewis isn’t about stats and pats on the back. He’s about his team. He doesn’t care if he succeeds, if that means that his team fails. A lot of guys will talk that talk. Ray Lewis lives it.

I remember the first couple times I watched Ray Lewis in action against my Denver Broncos. I was overjoyed to see him so pumped full of emotion, flying around the field like a madman. Because I knew, beyond any doubt, that such an output of emotion and energy could not be sustained for four quarters of football. It just isn’t possible.

And it isn’t possible. That is, for anyone except Ray Lewis. From whistle to whistle Ray Lewis plays at exactly the same speed, exactly the same level. He never slows down. His hits never soften. He never takes a play off or seems in the least bit tired. Crap, man, he hardly ever even seems out of breath.

What’s worse, his enthusiasm and passion infect his defensive teammates, inspiring them to play up to him, regardless of how their bodies are telling them that it’s time to take a break. It’s really incredible, awesome and deflating to witness.

What other player, at any position, on any team in any era, has been such an overwhelming dominating force as Ray Lewis? Think about this. In a season where his teammate, RB Jamal Lewis, ran for 2,066 yards, people wondered how he could be considered for the league MVP award when he wasn’t even the best player on his team. Because that honor belonged to Ray Lewis.

You can say that Ray Lewis is only so successful because he plays for a coach (Brian Billick), who many consider to be a coaching genius.

I say you’re mistaken. Without Lewis, Billick would be just another coach who’d never won a SB, and he’d very likely be either out of work by now, or being spoken of as “on the hotseat.”

There are plenty of reasons to hate Ray Lewis – if you aren’t a Ravens fan. That he may very well be the single greatest player to ever don an NFL uniform is only one of them.

2 replies on “Ray Lewis”

Billick You’re right and wrong about Billick. He truly is an offensive genius (He went to the playoffs with Elvis Grbac and Anthony Wright and won a SB with Trent Dilfer. If he’s not an offensive genius, I don’t know what is.), but without offensive personnel, he’s banking on Lewis and the defense.

Billick I won’t argue against Billick’s smarts. But without Lewis he would have lacked the personnel to get that ring.

I also think it shortchanges Billick to say he is an “offensive” genius. He’s proven that his grasp of the overall game is extraordinary. At very least he’s able to understand what he has on each side of the ball and tailor his philosophy to fit his personnel. Maybe he’s not the second coming of Joe Gibbs, but he has a damn fine coaching mind any way you look at it.

And I still hate his guts.

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