For weeks, no one could determine when The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour would draw to a close.
Since Lewis told on Jan. 2 his “last ride” in the NFL would coincide with the end of the Ravens’ postseason run, there was the chance that each game would be his last.
Now, after outstanding stops in Denver and New England, there is no longer any doubt: Win or lose, Lewis will perform for the final time on February 3, in New Orleans on the NFL’s grandest stage.
It would not be surprising if Lewis approached the Super Bowl with a feeling of finality, but the 37-year-old middle linebacker maintained that he’s thinking only about helping the Ravens beat the 49ers.
“Honestly, outside of putting my head in the playbook and studying San Fran, I actually haven’t thought about anything else,” Lewis claimed.
“It’s going to be a great day, period, no matter what occurs. And that’s kind of the way I’ve approached it,” he said. “I haven’t even said, ‘Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?’ I actually haven’t. Because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize.”
Now in his 17th season, Lewis is preparing for his 2nd Super Bowl — and first in 12 years. The last time he played for the NFL championship, Lewis earned MVP respects in Baltimore’s 34-7 win over the N.Y Giants.
After waiting all this time to get back, Lewis has no intention of just settling for being part of the big game.
“The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s great to get there, don’t misunderstand me, but to win it is something special.” NFL odds
And then, only then, Lewis will consider what it implies to walk off the football field for the last time.
“You feel that confetti drop, I will probably reflect then, when I’m there,” he said. “But, it actually hasn’t crossed my mind like that.”
Lewis has been with the Ravens since 1996, and that wasn’t long after his arrival that he became the captain of the defense. As his career went on, he lost a step but made up for it with tireless film study and sharp instincts.
After his rookie year, the only time Lewis failed to get a Pro Bowl invite were those seasons when he was beset by injury — 2002, 2005 and 2012.
Last year he received his 13th Pro Bowl nod regardless of missing 4 games with a foot injury. This season, after tearing his right triceps on October 14, there had been a strong possibility he wouldn’t be back. At first, the Baltimore Ravens believed he was done for the year. But Lewis promised to return, and his teammates were anxious to make it happen.
Since his return, Lewis has 44 tackles in 3 games. He isn’t limping into retirement; rather, he’s headed out with a flourish.
“He’s played really well. He’s played just like he always played,” Coach John Harbaugh announced.