Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis announced on Wednesday that he will retire at the end of this season. The 37-year-old veteran is considered to have had one of the greatest careers in NFL history.
"It is time for me to create a new legacy," Lewis said. He assured fans that he would be playing in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. The match will likely be Lewis’ final game in Baltimore.
"I talked to my team today," Lewis said. "I talked to them about life in general. And everything that starts has an end. For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride."
Lewis returned to the practice field on Dec. 5 after having injured his triceps two months ago in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Ravens added him to the active roster later that month so that he would be eligible for the playoffs.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who served as Lewis' defensive coordinator during the 2011-12 season, told ESPN, "I thought, shoot, the guy could play forever and would play forever. Great person, great man, great player, just an unbelievable human being -- what he's done for that organization, that city and for that matter, so many people. He's obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will be sorely missed."
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After being in drafted by the Ravens in 1996, Lewis played his entire career in Baltimore and was the last player remaining from the Ravens' inaugural season. He has gone to 12 Pro Bowls, been named first-team All-Pro seven times and been voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He led the Ravens in tackles in 14 of his 17 seasons, the exceptions being those years in which he missed significant time with injuries (2002, 2005, 2012), according to ESPN.
In addition, Lewis led the Ravens to the 2000 Super Bowl title after having set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season that same year.
The future Hall-Of-Famer expressed interest in spending more time with his two sons, who play football on the same high school team.
"God is calling," Lewis said. "My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years. I don't want to see them do that no more. I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it's my turn to give them something back."
Lewis added that he could have made the announcement during the offseason, but thought it best to do so now.
"I think my fans, my city, I think they deserved for me to just not walk away," he said. "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."