Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s a guy that you hate to love.
You love him because he’s been one of the best and most aggressive linebackers in the game for nearly two decades. You love him because he’s loyal to the core, playing for the same team for 17 seasons. You love him because he motivates teammates to step it up to the same level of intensity on a daily basis.
You hate him because he’s not a Denver Bronco and with his defense, he’s destroyed the Broncos in Baltimore for as long as the team’s been in Charm City. In fact, Lewis is the city’s charm, in a wrecking ball kind of way.
Lewis tore his triceps muscle in week 6, and was placed on injured reserve. The Ravens used the “designated to return” tag on him despite the fact that he needed surgery to repair the muscle.
When the Broncos take on the Ravens this week, Lewis could make his return in what would be a miraculous comeback for such an injury.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Ray,” John Fox said after Wednesday’s practice. “[He’s] obviously going to be a first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame player, brings great energy.”
Speaking of energy, a lot of Broncos had something to say about the way Lewis enters the field.
“I like watching him do intros so I’m kind of hoping he plays for that reason, but they’re a good defense with or without Ray,” Fox said. We’re going to have a tough test there in Baltimore.”
Nose tackle Justin Bannan played with Lewis for four seasons before coming to Denver.
“Second to none,” Bannan said of whether Lewis’s pregame routine gets him psyched. “I don’t care if you’re the visiting team or the home team. It’s a spectacle to watch. That’s just the way Ray is. The guy loves football. He’s played all these years, and he still has that passion and that fire. That intensity, you feed off that.”
Safety Jim Leonhard played with Lewis in 2008.
“It’s fun as a teammate,” Leonhard said of his dance. “You never like it being an opponent, because they go nuts. That crowd goes nuts. It’s genuine, it’s not an act. He’s intense. He’s fun to play with, and to have that passion for the game for as long as he’s played, you have to acknowledge that and respect him.”
Both Bannan and Leonhard speak of Lewis’s passion. To play at such a high level for 17 seasons, passion has to be at the forefront. Lewis has 1,336 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions, and 17 forced fumbles in his storied career.
Growing up in Dallas, Von Miller looked up to Lewis.
“Now, I admire the type of guy that Ray Lewis is on and off the field, the type of things that he stands for. For him to fight off the injury and be back in time to play this season, that just speaks on the type of guy that he is and the type of work ethic that he has. Of course, Ray Lewis is one of the greats. I looked up to him when I was younger and I still look up to him now.”
The Ravens’ defense has fallen without Lewis on the field. He’s basically the defensive equivalent to Peyton Manning for the Ravens. He’s the General. Last season, the team was 3rd in points allowed, 2nd in rush defense, and 4th in pass defense. This season, the Ravens are 10th in points allowed, 25th in rush defense, and 23rd in pass defense.
If Lewis takes the field on Sunday, he may not be 100%, but that won’t matter. He’ll have his team playing at 100%