The Raven’s Super Bowl victory has been a bit of a bittersweet one. I was too young to appreciate their first win back in 2000 so it’s been nice to see their often turbulent season end in such a grand fashion. But the conclusion of this season marks the end of something bigger.
The end of the Ray Lewis era has been something that I’ve thought about a few times over the past few years. I’m not sure there’s ever been a season where Lewis was my favorite player on the team as I’ve always favored the flashy Ed Reed the loud-mouthed Terrell Suggs. But there was always something larger than life about watching Ray Lewis play.
Ray Lewis is the final player from the Ravens inaugural roster back in 1996 to call it a career. 17 years is a long time for a NFL player, let alone on the same team who’s been around for the same amount of time. There has never been a Ravens team without number 52 on it.
Think about that for a second.
Few players are as synonymous with their organizations as Ray Lewis. The fans of this franchise will forever love the linebacker. Lewis set the precedent for leadership and excellence on the field.
The Ravens have made the playoffs every year for the past five years largely with the same core group of players. Players like Boldin, Smith, Leetch, Oher, and Jones have been the final pieces of the puzzle, but the nucleus has been consistent. My favorite moment from the post game coverage was seeing Lewis and Suggs embrace.
I’ll be as excited as every other fan when the Ravens take the field for the first time next season. But I’ll look at the middle of the defense expecting to see a player who is not going to be there. The saga of Ray Lewis concluded with a fairy tale ending. The title defense will be taken up without him.
The Ravens will be a different team without Ray Lewis. It was bound to happen eventually, but it will still be weird to see the championship team take the field without a little dance from the original Raven Players like Ray Lewis come once in a lifetime. It’ll take more than a couple days to process the full impact that he’s had on this team. Until then I’ll just say thank you Ray, and leave it at that.