Sporting a black bucket hat pulled down over his eyes, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis stepped up to the podium Wednesday and responded to a column in The Baltimore Sun that questioned if the 36-year-old should play on third downs and other passing situations for opposing offenses
Lewis insisted he is happy with the level he is performing at -- “Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked -- and the 2011 Pro Bowl linebacker said the criticism is a credit to his hard work over the years.
“Think about all of the people who had that one dream to be here and never made it,” he said. “For God to carry me here through 16 years and [to] still [be] playing at the level I’m playing, you know what, man speaks what man speaks, but God controls a whole ‘nother thought process.”
Lewis missed four straight games with a toe injury before returning to the lineup for the final three games of the regular season. Lewis, who led the Ravens with 95 tackles despite missing those four games, said that he has not had conversations with head coach John Harbaugh or his assistants about coming out of the game at any point unless he has sustained an injury.
“They probably tell you the smart thing to do. And you kind of do the opposite," said Lewis, who was of five Ravens players who did not participate in the portion of Wednesday's practice open to media.
As an example Lewis cited a game earlier in the season when he injured his shoulder and pumped out push-ups on the sidelines to convince the coaches and training staff that he was able to play.
“I got hit again and I was like, ‘Oh, okay. I think I need to come sit down,’” he said, grinning.
Despite a considerable amount of mileage on his body, Lewis again said that he “would never want to go back to being the young Ray Lewis,” the one who was at times out of control. And he pointed out that 10 years ago he got beat on similar plays to those that have happened this season.
As the Ravens wait to see who their opponent will be Jan. 15 when they host an AFC Divisional Round game at M&T Bank Stadium, Lewis isn't thinking about whether it will be his last NFL game.
“I have a true obligation, first of all to myself, to play the game with nothing else on my mind,” he said. “The second thing I have an obligation to is my teammates to give it everything I got.”
Lewis acknowledged similarities between the 2000 Super Bowl team and these current Ravens -- a star running back, a strong defense and a quarterback who can make plays when called upon -- but he was hesitant to guess whether a second Lombardi Trophy would be as sweet as the first.
“I’ve got to see what it feels like winning the second one,” Lewis said.