“The complexity of Lewis' legacy, for me, comes in what happened outside an Atlanta nightclub in January 2000, the night after the Super Bowl was played there, when Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker were stabbed to death. Lewis was indicted on two murder charges, and six months later he pleaded to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge in exchange for his testimony against two other defendants, who were ultimately acquitted. It is an indelible part of his history, just like the No. 52 on his jersey. He was there. He lied about it. Then he took a plea deal. 

“Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined Lewis $250,000 for conduct detrimental to the league. At the time, it was the largest such fine in NFL history, and it came with a caveat: If Lewis violated any part of his yearlong probation, the league would fine him an additional $250,000. Lewis did not give the league a reason to take any more of his money. …

“Some, like me, will never forget. Others, particularly young people, probably don't even remember. I certainly don't discredit Lewis' entire body of work, because he was a fantastic player who incredibly recovered from an event that, at the time, cast a dark cloud over the Ravens and the NFL. But the cynic in me, the realist in me, can't overlook it.”

--- Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports wonders if Lewis is the greatest gridiron leader ever.

“There are warriors, and there are leaders -- and there are leaders among leaders. It's quite possible that Lewis, in addition to being the greatest defensive player of his generation, impacts the emotional states of those around him like no one who has ever donned a pair of shoulder pads.

“Know this: When the Indianapolis Colts enter M&T Bank Stadium for Sunday's first-round playoff game in Baltimore -- and Lewis suits up and plays for the first time since tearing his triceps in mid-October -- they will encounter a psychotically supercharged Ravens team spurred by the return of the franchise's motivational catalyst.

“In his first game back, in what could be his last game in Baltimore, or anywhere, Lewis is sure to have everyone in purple performing at a fever pitch.”

--- Jarrett Bell of USA Today says that Lewis is making one final grand statement by going out like this.

“The Ravens, a dropped pass from winning the AFC title last season, no longer look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They are limping into the playoffs. Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, replacing him with Jim Caldwell. And quarterback Joe Flacco has been closer to average than elite. 

“Is Lewis' return a good distraction or a bad distraction? 

“On one level, his return has to be a plus. He's Ray Lewis. His name is like an acronym for passion and classic inspiration, wrapped with the delivery of a Baptist minister. The Ravens can't be distracted by his presence because they've lived, and sometimes flourished, in his shadow for a long time. Lewis has always seemed bigger than the team, much like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees -- only he happens to play defense rather than quarterback.”