NEW ORLEANS -- Ed Reed smiled playfully upon his arrival in New Orleans, toying with the idea of whether Ravens star inside linebacker Ray Lewis might reconsider his plans to retire.
"Yeah, it's Ray's last ride, but I wouldn't be so certain about that," Reed said with a laugh. "Ain't no telling. He might make a comeback. He may play 10 games next year."
Actually, that's not the case for Lewis even though several reporters took the bait from Reed about his friend and mentor's plans.
The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is adamant that he is walking away from the game after 17 seasons following Sunday's Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.
This is definitely Lewis' last ride, as he famously put it when he announced his intentions to retire.
Lewis is expected to join ESPN as a studio analyst for next season and he wants to spend time watching his son, University of Miami running back recruit Ray Lewis III, compete for the Hurricanes during his freshman season next all.
It's not for lack of trying from teammates who have attempted to convince Lewis to continue playing football.
"I get it every day," Lewis said. "The guys ask me, 'Are you really going to walk away?' I have so much to do, I really do. I have to go home and be a father to my kids, my community is definitely calling in many other ways. And I have run my course in the game. My ultimate was always to, with this core of men that I have, was to get back to a Super Bowl, and we are back.
"We're here, and I always wanted to experience that with Ed [Reed], with a Terrell Suggs, with a Ray Rice, and with a Joe Flacco. I wanted to experience that with those guys, and now that I am here experiencing that with them, it's awesome. But, the bottom line, like I told them, I'm here because I want them to feel what that confetti feels like. So, for me to feel that, listen, it's real with me when I say, 'I'm done,' because coming back is a totally different thought process. I would rub a lot of people wrong, most importantly my kids. I don't want to take them through that anymore."
Lewis said his family is all attending the game except for his grandmother, who's too ill to be here.
"I think the beautiful part of coming back now, is that my youngest baby is 10 years old, and my oldest son is 17," Lewis said. "Now, I get all of my kids to be here, my mom will be here, my dad will be here, so I complete it now. Everything is complete now. My entire family will be here actually watching this game, outside of my grandmother, who is very ill. But, my entire family will be here. Anytime you can finish a career with your whole family right there by your side, I think that is the way you should always do it.
"There is no greater reward than the relationship I have with my father right now, and the things we went through when I was younger. For me and him to look at each other, I just need to hear his voice sometimes. I need to hear him tell me a joke, or whatever it is. For us to be together this week, it is going to be an awesome time."