When legendary Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis told his teammates during a team meeting Wednesday morning that he's going to retire after this season, it sparked strong emotions throughout the room.
So, really, the only questions that remained suspended over the Under Armour Performance Center on Wednesday afternoon were the ones that nobody likes to ask at a historic and heart-strung moment such as this:
With an AFC North title and a home playoff game next weekend already secured, the Baltimore Ravens treated their regular-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium like a fifth preseason game. The end result -- a 23-17 loss in front of an announced 61,565 on a frigid afternoon -- hardly mattered.
Despite their many differences, the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals can say they share one thing: their approach to Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium. The coaches for both teams said their approach to the regular-season finale won't change despite neither team having much at stake.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees stuck with an aggressive approach, blitzing defenders and using unusual alignments. He lined up safeties James Ihedigbo and Omar Brown as edge pass rushers lined up outside the tackles and shifted outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw to nose guard.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that injured linebacker Jameel McClain's roster spot could eventually go to Ray Lewis, who could be activated this week from injured reserve with a designation to return.
The Ravens' first goal every season is to make it to the playoffs so in that sense, Sunday wasn't as big of a disaster as it once appeared. But the manner in which it happened leaves plenty of questions about whether the Ravens will be able to accomplish their other goals, which go far beyond just qualifying for the postseason.