Let Us Now Praise Ray Lewis

The Baltimore Ravens’ legendary linebacker is riding off into the sunset. But just where does he rate amongst the all-time greats?

The Baltimore Ravens’ legendary linebacker is riding off into the sunset. But just where does he rate amongst the all-time greats?

Photo: James Lang / USA TODAY Sports | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

Just this year, as Maxim was debating the biggest badasses in the NFL, the number one spot was never in question. Sure, there was plenty of argument (and drinking), but everyone on staff was on board with the fact that Ray Lewis was the baddest motherfucker in the game, no questions asked, even after 17 years in the league. And sure, there are a few blemishes on his resume (we don’t want to harp on the dude’s mistakes, but he’ll be forever tarnished by Super Bowl XXXIV; there’s never a valid excuse for a white fur coat), but Lewis’ on-field exploits stand up to just about anyone. As we showed yesterday, he could pulverize an opponent like Ronnie Rott crossed with Jack Tatum, tackle like Mike Singletary, scare the bejesus out of offensive players like Dick Butkus, Lawrence Taylor, or Jack Lambert, and take to the gridiron like a WWE superstar. I mean…that pre-game dance? That was some James Brown-level shit. His accomplishments speak for themselves:

Seventeen seasons (Butkus played nine)

13 Pro Bowls (most ever for a linebacker)

Two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (second most ever, behind Lawrence Taylor)

227 games started at Middle Linebacker, the most ever

Only member of the 40 sack/30 interception club.

XXXV Super Bowl MVP

And the numbers don’t tell the half of it. Lewis is arguably the most motivational teammate in NFL history, and among the most intimidating opponents to face on the field. If we were to rank the greatest defensive players in NFL history, our list would look like this:

1. Lawrence Taylor

2. Ray Lewis

3. Dick Butkus

4. Reggie White

5. Mean Joe Greene

6. Ray Nitschke

7. Ronnie Lott

8. Deacon Jones

9. Jack Lambert

10. Bruce Smith

That’s pretty good company, but as Lewis said yesterday in his press conference, for him it was all about winning, and in this final run though the playoffs, he’ll have a last chance to do just that. His career could be over this weekend against the “Chuckstrong” Colts, or he could lead his squad to New Orleans and one last ring. Either way, it’ll go down as one of the greatest careers in NFL history.

“Everything that starts has an end. It’s just life,” Lewis said yesterday. “And for me, today I told my team that this will be my last ride. I told them I just felt so much peace at where I am with my decision because of everything I’ve done in this league. I’ve done it, man.”

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