OWINGS MILLS, Md. | Ray Lewis is knows there won’t be many more chances to win another Super Bowl, so he’s attached a sense of urgency to this year’s playoffs.
Baltimore opens the postseason Sunday in Kansas City, but the Ravens linebacker began talking championship with his teammates when New Orleans came to town last month.
The night before the Ravens faced the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, he gave an impassioned speech to his teammates, stressing the importance of dedication and sacrifice.
“When New Orleans was coming here, they are still defending champs until somebody else touches that confetti,” Lewis said Wednesday. “That’s what I tried to get my young guys to clue in on. We watched them win a Super Bowl against the Colts last year. Do you want to feel that? Because I do — again.”
For Lewis, that’s the only one reason to play the game.
His 12 Pro Bowl invitations and two Defensive Player of the Year awards are meaningless next to the Super Bowl ring he earned a decade ago with Baltimore.
Now in his 15th season, the 35-year-old Lewis wants to make each play, each down count.
“I’ve watched some of the greatest warriors come in this business and leave this business without a ring,” Lewis said. “When you get that, the thing that waters you mouth is to feel that again. So when you find yourself back here, the message starts to become simple: What will you sacrifice for your team? What will you give up for that ultimate prize?”
Sounds like another speech brewing. And if Lewis does decide to address the Ravens before they face the Chiefs, there is no doubt that his teammates will heed every word.
“It’s huge to have a guy like him on the team, someone who knows what it takes to do something that’s darn near impossible,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “There’s only going to be one champion at the end of the year, and he’s done it before. A couple of years in the past we’ve had chances to win it but we’ve come up short. He can pinpoint exactly why we came up short.”
Lewis knows only one team emerges as champion each season, and he understands how difficult a task it is to win a Super Bowl title. This will be the sixth time since their lone Super Bowl appearance that the Ravens have been in the playoffs, and each of the previous five ended in disappointment.
Lewis intends to rectify that shortcoming in the weeks ahead.
“We’re back in the dance a third (consecutive) year. I say finish. Finish now. Because we’ve done everything else,” he said. “We’ve been to the AFC championship, we’ve been to the divisional round, we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. What’s next for us? What’s next is finish.”
If he can’t go to the Super Bowl as a player, Lewis won’t go as a fan. The only way he intends to be there in person is wearing a helmet, shoulder pads and a No. 52 jersey.
“I would never attend one without playing in it. But I do watch it,” Lewis said. “You sit there and you’re like, ‘Wow, somebody will experience what I experienced.’ I want that. That’s the only reason you play the game. And right now, my job as a leader of this team is to tell them, ‘Look, we’ve got three weeks. Make up your mind. We’ve got Kansas City this week, whoever the next week and whoever the next week. Whatever you’ve got to do, let’s see if we can make that trip to Dallas.’”
Lewis has been the leader of this team for 15 years, but his dozen Pro Bowl invitations are proof that he’s more than just a voice in the huddle and locker room. He leads the Ravens with 145 tackles, has two interceptions, two sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered three.
That, and his experience, should prove instrumental in Baltimore’s bid to go deep into the playoffs.
“When you have a Ray Lewis and (Pro Bowl safety) Ed Reed, you have confidence they’re going to be leaders and play great,” Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said. “They always show up in big games. When you’re playing with great players like that who have experience, you go into the playoffs it doesn’t seem like as big a deal. Ray has high expectations every single week, so we’re going to feel comfortable out there having him with us.”
After going through training camp and a 17-week regular season to get to this point, Lewis can’t wait to get started.
“Here we go again,” he said. “You had your peaks and valleys, your ups and downs, your wrongs and rights, your dos, your don’ts. You had all these different things. And now you find yourself with the only reason you play the game, and that’s the opportunity to be in the dance.”
And, more importantly, to be the last one standing.
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