It was during the 2000 season when most believe that Lewis established himself as the game’s best defensive player. At age 25, Lewis was the unquestioned leader of a defense that set a 16-game single-season record for fewest points allowed (165), fewest rushing yards allowed (970), and recorded four shutouts, one shy of the post-1970 merger record.
In the Ravens’ 34-7 victory over the Giants in the Super Bowl, Lewis had 11 tackles and four pass defenses, becoming just the second player in NFL history to win Super Bowl MVP and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
While that clearly was the high point in Lewis’ stellar career, his low point came after the previous Super Bowl when he was involved in an altercation in Atlanta that resulted in the stabbing deaths of two men. Lewis and his two companions – Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting — were indicted and charged with murder and aggravated assault. However, the chargers on Lewis were eventually dropped in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, and a guilty plea to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge.
Lewis, who reportedly reached settlements on the civil suits with the victims’ families, was given 12 months’ probation and fined $250,000 by the NFL.
Lewis also became a mentor for many of his peers, developing close friendships with the Houston Texans’ Arian Foster, receiver Chad Ochocinco and Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick.
On the field, he’s maintained a high standard, making it to the Pro Bowl eight of the past 10 seasons. The exception was this year and in 2005, when Lewis missed the final 10 games of the year after having surgery to repair a torn hamstring.
Lewis has missed the past 10 games this season with a torn triceps, but will return to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday for what could be his final NFL game in Baltimore.
“I may be gone now. But I ain’t gone forever,” Lewis said. “I’m just going in another phase of life. I think my fans, I think my city, they deserve it. They deserve that whenever this road stops, for me not just to walk away and be like, ‘I’m done.’ I think we all get to enjoy what Sunday will feel like knowing that this will be the last time 52 plays in a uniform in Ravens’ stadium.”
— Baltimore Sun