“Being a performer is part of what I do,” he said several years ago. “I understand that. I enjoy it, and I also like to think it helps my team play well because most of the time my teammates enjoy it.”
They did — especially knowing once the dancing and chest-pounding was over, no one was going to be more ready to play than Lewis. That’s why they were like everyone else when it was finally Lewis’s time to come out of the tunnel, crowding as close as they could to be part of the moment.
“I was kind of standing out there at the back, and I noticed none of the defensive guys were coming out [onto the field] to get high-fives like they usually do,” Flacco said. “Then I saw them crowding around the tunnel and I figured I better get closer.” He smiled. “I told my wife last night to bring a video camera. She said, ‘I’m not going to do that; I can’t bring it in to the stadium.’ I told her to stick it in a bag. I hope she did it.”
There were moments when Lewis didn’t quite make plays he would have made once upon a time. A pass deflected by Haloti Ngata almost landed in his lap — and he dropped it.
“I blame that one on the brace” protecting his injured triceps, Lewis said, smiling. “I couldn’t extend my arm.”
There were a couple of passes just out of his reach that he would have gotten a hand on once upon a time. But in the end he made nine tackles and assisted on four others — not bad for an old man who hadn’t played since Oct. 14.
In the final seconds, Harbaugh, showing a sense of the dramatic, put him in for the final play — with the offense in victory formation.
“I always wanted to do that,” Lewis said. “But I never had the nerve to ask.”
Harbaugh said a higher power inspired him to put Lewis into the game, which was also apt, given Lewis’s devoutness.
No one had left the stadium early when the clock hit zero, and Lewis disappointed no one, taking a final victory lap — a la Cal Ripken right across the street more than 17 years ago — to say goodbye, clearly wanting to stay on the field for as long as possible.
An hour later, he slowly pulled his suit coat on and reached into his locker for his glasses. There is at least one more game to play, but a few minutes later, as Lewis left the building for the final time as a player, he clearly understood that it was time to go home.
For previous columns by John Feinstein, visit washingtonpost.com/feinstein.