During his introductory press conference last week, Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was asked how much linebacker Ray Lewis has left in the tank. Pagano revealed that during the 2010 season, the 35-year-old linebacker played 1,111 out of a possible 1,116 snaps, which is crazy. "And we chewed him out when he came out for that, for missing five plays," Pagano joked.
Lewis was selected to his 12th Pro Bowl this season after recording a team-high 139 tackles. He had two sacks, two interceptions and forced two fumbles. Lewis also jacked up Saturn.
I've been asked a few times about Lewis potentially retiring, but trust me, it's not happening any time soon. Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote on Monday that "Ray Lewis is telling friends he definitely wants to return for a 16th year, whenever that may be."
As long as he is still a productive player and has at least two or three of his limbs intact, you can pencil Lewis into the middle of the Baltimore defense. I see Lewis playing out the final year of his three-year contract then signing a shorter deal (or two) to retire with the Ravens.
That being said, the Ravens need to start looking for a long-term replacement for Lewis, and by replacement, I mean someone to eventually fill his spot on the depth chart because it's highly unlikely they will find someone to fill his Canton-bound cleats. Young linebackers Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden are all complementary players, so the Ravens need to find an impact player in the next draft or two to man a spot in the middle once Lewis hangs them up.
Now, if that linebacker can go to a dozen Pro Bowls, play 99.6 percent of his snaps at age 35 and carry the organization that way Lewis has -- and blow up a planet, too -- consider this city blessed.