Six of Ray Lewis’ former teammates already have been inducted in the Ravens’ Ring of Honor and he’s watched his contemporaries around the league get recognized in a similar fashion.
But the magnitude of what awaits Lewis on Sunday really didn’t sink in until last week when the former linebacker watched Tedy Bruschi get inducted into New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame.
“I’m just watching from afar [thinking], ‘Wow, I have to get ready to do something like that in front of my city that I’ve been with since I was 18 or 19 years old,’” Lewis said Monday during a national conference call. “It’s one of the most humbling feelings that you ever go through. You think, ‘Wow, I was able to stand on my own, finish my career, go out on top and now return back to my city.’”
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More than seven months since he officially retired, Lewis will become the 16th member of the franchise’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Ravens’ game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.
For Lewis, now an analyst for ESPN, the day will provide an opportunity to reminisce on his career, which started when he was the second of two first-round picks in the franchise’s first draft in 1996, and ended amid a sea of confetti in February when Lewis and the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers to capture Super Bowl XLVII. That was Lewis’ second Super Bowl victory.
“The most exciting thing for me is that we were at the beginning of that and to build that brand the way it is now, the way it’s respected now, it’s like the ultimate,” Lewis said. “To come back and see what we did for that city, to see what I was able to help do for that city, and to see the fans and know the connection — because I’m always going to be connected to Baltimore — just to come back and feel what that love feels like is just going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my kids’ eyes and just seeing my family and just being around them and just sharing that moment with them, because it’s huge. It’s huge when you sit back and pay attention to it.”
Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, said that he will talk later this week to Ravens coach John Harbaugh who joked Monday about having his former linebacker give the current team one of those pre-game talks that he delivered for much of the last two decades.
As of now though, Lewis doesn’t have plans to deliver any fiery speech or make any elaborate entrance. He’s just looking forward to the opportunity to say hello to many of his former teammates. That group could include Texans safety Ed Reed, the former Raven who hasn’t played yet this season because of a hip injury but Lewis — and many others — expect to see him on the field Sunday.
“If he can’t go, then there’s still something really wrong,” said Lewis who acknowledged that he still talks and texts regularly with Ravens’ players and coaches.
The Ravens’ roster, specifically on defense, has been significantly overhauled since Lewis last manned the middle, but he said that he likes what he’s seen so far.
“I just think they’re adjusting to a lot of new pieces, to what this looks like and what that looks like. ‘How do we go down this path without this, without that?’ And I think they’re doing a pretty good job,” Lewis said. “Sometimes on Sundays, it doesn’t always show, but I think once the chemistry starts to actually click in, I think everything is going to be fine, just like I’ve been telling people on ESPN. I’m like listen: ‘[Stop] the panic, everything is good.’ There are just a lot of adjustments going on and then the injury bug hit us. There are a lot of things we’re going through right now, and they understand it’s all a part of the process. I like where we are, but I like the potential of where we can go as well.”
Saying that he has enjoyed his transition to an analyst role, the 38-year-old joked that on Sundays, he occupies the “loudest hotel room” because he still gets so “amped” for Ravens’ games. However, that doesn’t mean that he regrets walking away from the NFL after 17 seasons.
“I went at the game so hard. I enjoyed every moment of it, but … my family had to sacrifice so much,” Lewis said. “Honestly, since I’ve been done with the game, everything I’ve been doing — if it’s not with ESPN — it’s been with my kids. The time with them, just being there and them knowing that their dad is home, here to [relax] and doesn’t have to always be away — it’s the ultimate now. I appreciated the game, I love the game so much, but I can’t tell you that I have withdrawals [thinking], ‘I really miss the game.’ I talk to the [Ravens players] regularly; I text them regularly — just general conversation every day. So, it’s not like I’m disconnected to them. It’s been a great adjustment, to sum it up in all words.”