By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
7:36 PM EDT, May 27, 2013
Ray Lewis' signature fire and brimstone speeches were the trademark of his leadership style.
Now that the future Hall of Fame middle linebacker has retired, the Ravens' locker room chemistry is in transition. It's a decidedly quieter one.
Besides outspoken star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, most of the Ravens' top players have low-key personalities.
A different kind of leadership structure might emerge with Lewis as well as veteran free safety Ed Reed no longer on the roster, one with several different voices, albeit in a less pronounced way than previous incarnations of the AFC North franchise.
"The guys will fill it right up," Ravens coach John Harbaugh predicted. "The leadership lid maybe gets pushed off, maybe, and some other guys grow up behind into that opportunity. That's what will happen. I can see guys doing it already."
Among the leaders on the Ravens are Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, who's a confident public speaker, and quarterback Joe Flacco, who has a stoic, unflappable approach to the game. Signed to a $120.6 million blockbuster contract in March, Flacco tends to lead by example.
“Joe has been a great leader," Harbaugh said. "Joe has done a great job throughout his career in his own way. One thing about Joe: Nothing is going to change Joe. Joe is going to be who he is.
"I don’t think a change in the roster is going to change Joe, who he is. A change in the contract isn’t going to change Joe. Joe is Joe, and that’s what you love about him.”
Harbaugh acknowledged that not having Lewis does represent a significant change.
The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player was the face of the franchise for the past 17 years. Now Lewis is gone and has joined ESPN as a football analyst.
“I’ve thought about it," Harbaugh said. "Ray was never here during the offseason anyway, so I’d say it’s business as usual. How about that? (laughter) It’s normal, but Ray’s a part of us. He’s always going to be a part of us, just like all the other guys that have played here are always a part of us. Those guys are always welcome. They are back from time to time.
"Truly, when you are a part of a football team, anybody that has played any sport, football is the one that I know, you do walk together forever as teammates. So those guys are still a part of it, and this team goes forward and tries to build a legacy and see what they can do with it. That’s what’s exciting.”
Harbaugh mentioned newcomer Elvis Dumervil, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker signed to a $35 million contract after a fax debacle led to him being cut by the Denver Broncos, as someone who's developing into a leader because of his strong work ethic.
Dumervil was deferential to Lewis' legacy when asked about replacing Lewis' impact, on and off the field.
“You can’t, man," Dumervil said. "He’s a first-ballot [Hall of Famer], arguably one of the best players ever. All you can do, I think, you can learn from your past, and I think the history, the past he’s left here was remarkable and sort of set in stone. So his place will always be marked here, and you’ve just got to learn from that and try to keep it going.
"First of all, you've just got to go out and play. I think as Ray went out, he demonstrated, he played, and he walked the walk, he talked the talk. I think, soon enough, when the tides get rolling. That’s why I think it’s important to come out to offseason training, OTAs and those things, let the younger guys [see you]. You know it’s a profession, you’ve got to be professional about it, and you take your job seriously.”