Last week, ESPN revealed its NFL “All Era” team, which recognized those current players whose attitudes and styles of play would make them successful in, well, any era, whether it is today’s pass-happy NFL or the days when Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert roamed the field and the word “concussion” was crazy medical jargon.
Three Ravens were in the top 14 -- linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and running back Ray Rice. Lewis was No. 1 on the list, which was based on voting by 20 Hall of Famers -- legends such as Mike Ditka, Warren Moon and Jerry Rice -- and ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton. Lewis was said to be “the overwhelming top pick.”
“[It’s] humbling,” Lewis told ESPN.com. “Because those are guys that I had a dream one day, to say, 'I want to be in the NFL. I want to be that, and leave a mark on it.' When you watch Jim Brown, he left a mark on the game by the way he played. And the difference of Jim Brown and all the others -- the Lynn Swanns and all the other people, it's pure effort -- that's it. He was gifted with great talent, but everything else was effort.
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“And when you hear men like that speak about you, you humble yourself, to say, 'Wow,' you know, to know that when you do strap up your cleats and you buckle up your chin strap, that somebody is always watching, and they're paying you a lot of respect by the way you go at the game. It's the ultimate respect in this game, that when you leave this game, you'll mainly be remembered by what your peers and what people watching you say."
Seven of the top 14 players on this list are members of the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. That says something about the brand of football that is played in the AFC North, especially in the NFL’s hardest-hitting rivalry.