Ray Lewis - Page 16 - THROUGH THE YEARS

Ray Lewis
- Page 16
THROUGH THE YEARS
By Childs Walker The Baltimore Sun

Ray Lewis was the Ravens’ second pick in the first round in the 1996 NFL draft after Jonathan Ogden. Perhaps it’s fitting that Ogden was the first Raven to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the second will be Lewis. Here is a look at Lewis’ 17-year career and the five years since he retired:

1996

Off field: April 20, the Ravens select Lewis with the 26th overall pick, the team’s second in the first round. Lewis, undersized at 6 feet 1, 235 pounds, is considered something of a consolation prize after the Ravens miss out on Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy (out of the league since 2004) at the top of the first round. But Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda says of Lewis: “When you watch himon film, he catches your eye andyoulove towatch him play.” ... On July 13, Lewis signs a five-year deal with a $1.3 million bonus in time to start training camp.

On field: Aug. 3, Lewis records a sack in the Ravens’ preseason debut, Baltimore’s firstNFLhomegame in13 years. ...

OnSept.1, Lewisstarts the regular-season opener atMemorial Stadium and records a team-leading seven tackles along with his first career interception in a 19-14 win over the Oakland Raiders. ... He appears in 14 games (13 starts) and leads the 4-12 teamwith142 tackles.

Honors: AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1, USA Today All-Rookie team.

1997

Off field: On July 29, Lewis is flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a possible neck injury after a trainingcamp collision. He is deemed to have no spinal-cord or nerve damage.

On field: Lewis enters his second season as the leader of the defense, intent on establishing himself in the NFL elite. “I’m still being myself, but it’s different being in this position as the leader of the linebackers,” he says before the start of camp. ... On Sept. 14, he records a franchise-recordandcareer-high25tackles in a road win over the New York Giants. ... Lewis leads the league with 210 tackles (163 solo).

Honors: Selected as first alternate to the Pro Bowl and is named second-team All-NFL by the Associated Press.

1998

Off field: Nov. 19, Lewis signs a four-year, $26 million contract extension that makes him the league’s highest-paid middle linebacker.

On field: At age 23, Lewis enters his third season as one of the most respected linebackers in the league. “I don’t just want another Pro Bowl,” he says. “I want to be Defensive Player of the Year this year. Or how about Player of the Year?My concern is about being the best middle linebacker. When Ray Lewis is done playing, I want people to say, ‘That guy was the best.’ ” ... Lewis misses almost three full games with a dislocated left elbow but still leads the Ravens in tackles with154.

Honors: Selected to the Pro Bowl.

1999

On field: Lewis is now routinely described by other players as the best linebacker in the NFL. The Ravens win four of their last fivegames andemerge as a potential up-and-comer under firstyear head coach Brian Billick. ... Within days of taking the job in January, Billick challenges Lewis to push beyond individual excellence and lead the team to the Super Bowl. ... Lewis records 14 tackles, a sack and a 60-yard interception return in the season-opening loss to the St. Louis Rams. ... Lewis starts all 16 games and finishes with a league-high 198 tackles, 3½sacks and three interceptions.

Honors: Lewis makes the Pro Bowl again and is named first-teamAll-NFLby the AP and Sporting News.

2000

Off field: In a stunning turn of events, Lewis is charged with first-degree murder after two men were stabbed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub following a night of Super Bowl parties. … On Feb. 1, Lewis appears in an Atlanta courtroom and is denied bail after being charged in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. ... On Feb. 15, Lewis is freed on $1 million bond and returns to Baltimore, where he declares that he’s innocent but “very sorry about the tragedy that happened in Atlanta.” ... On June 5, after two weeks of trial, Lewis is cleared of murder charges, pleads to a misdemeanor obstruction charge and agrees to testify against two former co-defendants. ... Team owner Art Modell says he feels vindication and relief for Lewis, adding that he “never had any qualms about his innocence.” ... “This is done,” Lewis says in his first public remarks after the trial. “This is achapter that needs to be closed.”

On field: Lewis returns from his harrowing offseason to author his signature on-field season as the leader of a historically great defense. ... On Sept. 3, the Ravens shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers in Lewis’ return to the field. ... Facing boos at most road games, Lewis records 187 tackles for a defense that sets a 16-game record for fewest points allowed.

Honors: Lewis makes the Pro Bowl and is named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and first-teamAll-Pro by the AP and Sporting News.

2001

On field: Lewis completes a season of remarkable swings by leading the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV against the Giants. ... Lewis records 44 tackles in four playoff games, including 11 in the SuperBowl, as theRavens defense allows only one touchdown. ... “The thing is, the man upstairs tells you I never would take you through hell without bringing you through triumph,”Lewis says in thewake of the Super Bowl victory. ... Asked about Lewis’ place among all-time great linebackers, general manager Ozzie Newsome says: “I think from nowon, Ray has to be considered in that vein—one of the best ever and possibly the best to ever play the game.” ... The following season, Lewis again leads the team in tackles with196 as the Ravens attempt to defend their title.

Honors: Lewis is named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and later first-team All-Pro by the AP and Sporting News.

2002

Off field: Lewis suffers a difficult season, missing 11 games with a shoulder injury and finishing the year on injured reserve.

On field: On Jan. 20, the Ravens’ title defense stalls in a 27-10 playoff loss at Pittsburgh. ... On Oct. 6, Lewis partially dislocates his left shoulder after jamming his arm into the turf in Cleveland. ... Lewis still finishes fifth on the 7-9 Ravens with 85 tackles. ... He vows to throw himself into offseason boot camp and returnan even betterplayer. “I’mgoing to make big plays look easy,” he says.

2003

On field: Lewis makes good on his promise to bounce back, leading the resurgent Ravens to a division title. ... He sets career bests with 225 tackles and six interceptions.

Honors: He’s named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and again makes first-team All-Pro for the AP and Sporting News.

2004

On field: Lewis records 200 tackles, but the Ravens finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. ... He misses the last game of the season with a broken wrist.

Honors: Lewis is again named firstteam All-Pro by the AP and Sporting News.