BALTIMORE — Six of Ray Lewis’s former teammates have already been inducted in the Ravens’ Ring of Honor and he’s watched his contemporaries around the league get recognized in a similar fashion.
But the magnitude of what awaits Lewis on Sunday really didn’t sink in until last week when the former linebacker watched Tedy Bruschi get inducted into New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame.
“I’m just watching from afar [thinking], ‘Wow, I have to get ready to do something like that in front of my city that I’ve been with since I was 18 or 19 years old,’ ” Lewis said on Tuesday during a national conference call. “It’s one of the most humbling feelings that you ever go through. You think, ‘Wow, I was able to stand on my own, finish my career, go out on top and now return back to my city.’ ”
More than seven months since he retired, Lewis will become the 16th member of the franchise’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Ravens’ game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.
For Lewis, now an analyst for ESPN, the day will provide an opportunity to reminisce on his career, which started when he was the second of two first-round picks in the franchise’s first draft in 1996, and ended amid a sea of confetti in February when Lewis and the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, to capture Super Bowl XLVII. That was Lewis’s second Super Bowl victory.
“The most exciting thing for me is that we were at the beginning of that and to build that brand the way it is now, the way it’s respected now, it’s like the ultimate,” Lewis said. “To come back and see what we did for that city, to see what I was able to help do for that city, and to see the fans and know the connection – because I’m always going to be connected to Baltimore – just to come back and feel what that love feels like is just going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my kids’ eyes and just seeing my family and just being around them and just sharing that moment with them, because it’s huge.”
Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFL defensive player of the year, said that he will talk later this week to Coach John Harbaugh, who joked Monday about having his former linebacker give the current team one of those pregame talks that he delivered for much of the last two decades.
As of now though, Lewis doesn’t have plans to deliver any fiery speech or make any elaborate entrance. He’s looking forward to the chance to say hello to many of his former teammates. That group could include Texans safety Ed Reed, the former Raven who hasn’t played yet this season because of a hip injury. But Lewis – and many others – expect to see him Sunday.
“If he can’t go, then there’s still something really wrong,” said Lewis who says he still talks and texts regularly with Ravens players and coaches.
The Ravens’ roster, specifically on defense, has been significantly overhauled since Lewis last manned the middle, but he said that he likes what he’s seen so far.
“I just think they’re adjusting to a lot of new pieces, to what this looks like and what that looks like. ‘How do we go down this path without this, without that?’ And I think they’re doing a pretty good job,” Lewis said.