Ravens great Ray Lewis on the leaders looked up to in his career. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Ray Lewis was the Ravens' second pick in the first round in the 1996 NFL draft after Jonathan Ogden. Perhaps it's fitting that Ogden was the first Raven to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the second will be Lewis. Here is a look at Lewis' 17-year career and the five years since he retired:
Off field: April 20, the Ravens select Lewis with the 26th overall pick, the team's second in the first round. Lewis, undersized at 6 feet 1, 235 pounds, is considered something of a consolation prize after the Ravens miss out on Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy (out of the league since 2004) at the top of the first round. But Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda says of Lewis: "When you watch him on film, he catches your eye and you love to watch him play." ... On July 13, Lewis signs a five-year deal with a $1.3 million bonus in time to start training camp.
On field: Aug. 3, Lewis records a sack in the Ravens' preseason debut, Baltimore's first NFL home game in 13 years. ... On Sept. 1, Lewis starts the regular-season opener at Memorial Stadium and records a team-leading seven tackles along with his first career interception in a 19-14 win over Oakland Raiders. ... He appears in 14 games (13 starts) and leads the 4-12 team with 142 tackles.
Honors: AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1, USA Today All-Rookie team.
Off field: On July 29, Lewis is flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a possible neck injury after a training-camp collision. He is deemed to have no spinal-cord or nerve damage.
On field: Lewis enters his second season as the leader of the defense, intent on establishing himself in the NFL elite. "I'm still being myself, but it's different being in this position as the leader of the linebackers, " he says before the start of camp. ... On Sept. 14, he records a franchise-record and career-high 25 tackles in a road win over the New York Giants. ... Lewis leads the league with 210 tackles (163 solo).
Honors: Selected as first alternate to the Pro Bowl and is named second-team All-NFL by the Associated Press.
Off field: Nov. 19, Lewis signs a four-year, $26 million contract extension that makes him the league's highest-paid middle linebacker.
On field: At age 23, Lewis enters his third season as one of most respected linebackers in the league. "I don't just want another Pro Bowl," he says. "I want to be Defensive Player of the Year this year. Or how about Player of the Year? My concern is about being the best middle linebacker. When Ray Lewis is done playing, I want people to say, 'That guy was the best.' " ... Lewis misses almost three full games with a dislocated left elbow but still leads the Ravens in tackles with 154.
Honors: Selected to the Pro Bowl.
On field: Lewis is now routinely described by other players as the best linebacker in the NFL. The Ravens win four of their last five games and emerge as a potential up-and-comer under first-year head coach Brian Billick. ... Within days of taking the job in January, Billick challenges Lewis to push beyond individual excellence and lead the team to the Super Bowl. ... Lewis records 14 tackles, a sack and a 60-yard interception return in the season-opening loss to the St. Louis Rams. ... Lewis starts all 16 games and finishes with a league-high 198 tackles, 3½ sacks and three interceptions.
Honors: Lewis makes the Pro Bowl again and is named first-team All-NFL by the AP and Sporting News.
Off field: In a stunning turn of events, Lewis is charged with first-degree murder after two men were stabbed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub following a night of Super Bowl parties. … Feb. 1, Lewis appears in an Atlanta courtroom and is denied bail after being charged in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. ... On Feb. 15, Lewis is freed on $1 million bond and returns to Baltimore, where he declares that he's innocent but "very sorry about the tragedy that happened in Atlanta." ... On June 5, after two weeks of trial, Lewis is cleared of murder charges, pleads to a misdemeanor obstruction charge and agrees to testify against two former co-defendants. ... Team owner Art Modell says he feels vindication and relief for Lewis, adding that he "never had any qualms about his innocence." ... "This is done, " Lewis says in his first public remarks after the trial. "This is a chapter that needs to be closed."
On field: Lewis returns from his harrowing offseason to author his signature on-field season as the leader of a historically great defense. ... On Sept. 3, the Ravens shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers in Lewis' return to the field. ... Facing boos at most road games, Lewis records 187 tackles for a defense that sets a 16-game record for fewest points allowed.
Honors: Lewis makes the Pro Bowl and is named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Pro by the AP and Sporting News.
On field: Lewis completes a season of remarkable swings by leading the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV against the Giants. ... Lewis records 44 tackles in four playoff games, including 11 in the Super Bowl, as the Ravens defense allows only one touchdown. ... "The thing is, the man upstairs tells you I never would take you through hell without bringing you through triumph," Lewis says in the wake of the Super Bowl victory. ... Asked about Lewis' place among all-time great linebackers, general manager Ozzie Newsome says: "I think from now on, Ray has to be considered in that vein — one of the best ever and possibly the best to ever play the game." ... The following season, Lewis again leads the team in tackles with 196 as the Ravens attempt to defend their title.
Honors: Lewis is named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and later first-team All-Pro by the AP and Sporting News.
Off field: Lewis suffers a difficult season, missing 11 games with a shoulder injury and finishing the year on injured reserve.
On field: On Jan. 20, the Ravens' title defense stalls in a 27-10 playoff loss at Pittsburgh. ... On Oct. 6, Lewis partially dislocates his left shoulder after jamming his arm into the turf in Cleveland. ... Lewis still finishes fifth on the 7-9 Ravens with 85 tackles. ... He vows to throw himself into offseason boot camp and return an even better player. "I'm going to make big plays look easy," he says.
On field: Lewis makes good on his promise to bounce back, leading the resurgent Ravens to a division title. ... He sets career bests with 225 tackles and six interceptions.
Honors: He's named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and again makes first-team All-Pro for the AP and Sporting News.
On field: Lewis records 200 tackles, but the Ravens finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. ... He misses the last game of the season with a broken wrist.
Honors: Lewis is again named first-team All-Pro by the AP and Sporting News.
Off field: It's another season waylaid by injuries as Lewis misses the final 10 games of the year after surgery to repair a torn hamstring.
On field: The Ravens finish 6-10 without their defensive leader. ... Lewis accumulates 77 tackles in six games.
On field: With Lewis back in the lineup for 14 games, the Ravens lead the league in total defense and scoring defense as they invite comparisons to the record-setting 2000 unit. The team finishes with a 13-3 regular-season mark, the best in Ravens history. ... On Sept. 10, Lewis records 10 tackles and a sack in a season-opening victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ... Lewis leads the team with 164 tackles.
Honors: Lewis is AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1 and makes another Pro Bowl.
Off field: Lewis questions Billick's play-calling during a gloomy 5-11 season. Billick is fired after the season.
On field: The year opens with a disappointing home playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts and finishes with the worst season in Lewis' tenure. ... On Jan. 13, Lewis records 23 tackles as the Ravens hold Peyton Manning and the Colts without a touchdown in an emotionally charged showdown. But Baltimore loses, 15-6. ... "The bottom line is, what we did as a defense, nobody expected that. What we did, winning the AFC North, nobody expected that, " Lewis says a few weeks later. "So to say that the window is closing, I think the window is just opening for the things that we're trying to do." ... The Ravens fall to 5-11 in the 2007 regular season. ... Lewis leads the team with 184 tackles.
Honors: Lewis makes his ninth Pro Bowl.
Ravens great Ray Lewis on when he realized he could become a pro athlete. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
On field: The Ravens begin a new era and return to the playoffs under coach John Harbaugh. Lewis leads the second-ranked defense in the NFL with 160 tackles. ... Lewis shows up for training camp with 15 pounds of extra muscle. ... The season begins with questions about how Lewis and Harbaugh will get along. Both downplay the storyline. ... ... "It's getting to the point with Ray where it's almost ridiculous," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan says of the linebacker's long-term excellence.
Honors: Lewis makes his 10th Pro Bowl and is named first-team All-Pro by the AP.
Off field: Team owner Steve Bisciotti and Harbaugh say they want to re-sign Lewis, but in a Pro Bowl interview, the linebacker says he won't take a hometown discount and is intrigued by other destinations. ... On March 4, Lewis agrees to a three-year deal and says he plans to retire as a Raven.
On field: The year begins with a painful loss to the Steelers in the AFC championship game and talk that Lewis could sign elsewhere as a free agent. ... Lewis makes nine tackles and forces a fumble in the 23-14 AFC championship loss to the Steelers. ... Lewis finishes the regular season with 164 tackles, again tops on the team.
Honors: Lewis is named first-team All-Pro by the AP. ... The Pro Football Hall of Fame committee names Lewis to the NFL All-Decade team for 2000 to 2009.
On field: On Jan. 10, Lewis records 13 tackles and his first postseason sack as the Ravens crush the New England Patriots in the playoff opener. The season ends with a 20-3 loss in Indianapolis the next week ... On Oct. 24, Lewis starts his 200th career game and leads the Ravens with 14 tackles and a sack in a win over the Buffalo Bills. Lewis again leads the playoff-bound Ravens in tackles.
Honors: Lewis is named to his 12th Pro Bowl.
On field: Despite missing four games with a foot injury, Lewis leads the NFL's third-ranked defense in tackles. ...On Jan. 15, the Ravens lose a divisional playoff game to the Steelers after leading 21-7. ... On Sept. 25, Lewis earns AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for making 10 tackles in a 37-7 win over the Rams. ... On Oct. 16, with a sack against the Texans, Lewis becomes the first player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.
Honors: Lewis is selected to his 13th Pro Bowl and an NFL Network player survey names the 36-year-old the fourth-best player in the league and the best defender.
Off field: Asked whether he'll know when to walk away, Lewis says: "I believe you always know. When you go at life as hard as I go at this game, you know when it's over." After a triceps injury imperils his season, the Ravens activate him from injured reserve in time to be eligible for the last few games of the regular season and the playoffs. He doesn't get into any of the final regular-season games.
On field: On Jan. 22, the Ravens lose in the AFC championship game to the Patriots; Lewis ties for the team lead with 12 tackles. ... "Is this my last game as a Raven? Absolutely not," Lewis says after the game. "Let me answer that question before somebody asks it." ... Lewis shows up for training camp at least 20 pounds lighter, saying quickness is more important than power in the pass-happy NFL. ... He makes 57 tackles in the first six games of the season before tearing his right triceps.
Off field: On Jan. 2, as the Ravens prepare for their first playoff game against the Colts, Lewis tells his teammates, then the media, that "this will be my last ride." … He spends much of Super Bowl week answering questions about his alleged use of deer antler velvet spray after an article appears in Sports Illustrated. … In March, ESPN makes the widely anticipated announcement that it has hired Lewis to appear as an analyst on its Sunday and Monday night NFL coverage … On Sept. 22, Lewis becomes the seventh Ravens player to enter the team's Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium.
On field: Lewis makes his return in the Ravens' playoff game against Indianapolis on Jan. 6, his last at M&T Bank Stadium. He makes 13 tackles against the Colts as the Ravens advance with a 24-9 victory. ... On Jan. 12 in a 38-35 overtime win over the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional playoffs, Lewis has 17 tackles. ... In the AFC championship game against the Patriots, Lewis has 14 tackles in a 28-13 victory that puts the Ravens into the Super Bowl. ... In Lewis' final game, a 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Feb. 3, he has seven tackles.
On Sept. 4, the Ravens unveil a bronze statue of Lewis outside M&T Bank Stadium, near the existing statue of former Colts star Johnny Unitas. At the ceremony, Lewis, clad in a dark suit and sunglasses, performs his signature squirrel dance and gives an emotional speech in which he thanks many of the people who helped him in Baltimore.
Lewis joins dozens of current and former Ravens who visit West Baltimore neighborhoods in the wake of Freddie Gray's death in police custody. The players distribute food to families and try to lift the spirits of anxious, hurting students at area schools.
Lewis angers activists when he suggests the Black Lives Matter movement should focus on black-on-black violence more than police misconduct. … ESPN parts ways with Lewis after three years, bringing a disappointing end to his initial foray into the media. … Lewis ruffles feathers with his old team during a Fox Sports 1 appearance when he questions the passion of quarterback Joe Flacco.
Fox Sports hires Lewis in June, announcing that he will appear on a range of programs, including "Undisputed" with Skip Bayless and former teammate Shannon Sharpe, and "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd. … Lewis inserts himself into the controversy surrounding former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, questioning Kaepernick's commitment to football and saying the Ravens would have signed Kaepernick if his girlfriend had not posted a "racist" tweet portraying Lewis as Bisciotti's lackey. … Lewis kneels with Ravens players during the national anthem played before the team's Sept. 24 game in London. He says he was praying rather than protesting, but angry fans draft a petition calling for the removal of his statue outside M&T Bank Stadium.
Lewis is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.