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Ravens’ Ray Lewis Plans To Retire After Season

There was a time when it appeared Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Raven linebacker who could be the best to ever man the position, might not retire at all, that someone would have to hide his shoulder pads to keep him off the field. But time away from his family after 17 years in the NFL has worn on him he said Wednesday in announcing that he was playing his final games in the NFL.

“God is calling,” Lewis said to the media Wednesday after practice. “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.”

The 37-year-old Lewis said he spoke to his team 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.”

The Ravens face the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. When they lose in the post-season or win the Super Bowl, Lewis said that would be it for him. A bicep injury sideline him much of the second half of the season, but he said there is “no reason” for him to not play this weekend.

In his career, Lewis recorded 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions. More importantly, he perhaps the most consistent and fierce defender of his era. He led the Ravens to the 2000 Super Bowl title, a year after he was embroiled in a double-murder case in Atlanta during Super Bowl week. Lewis was absolved from any wrongdoing in exchange for his testimony against two friends who were indicted in the case.

Since then, Lewis has been a model citizen, teammate, player and leader. He has played in 12 Pro Bowls and was for years regarded as the most dominant defensive player in the NFL.

“It was sad,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said of Lewis’ address to the team about retiring. “It affected me, because for the past 10 years of my career I’ve been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays. It’s going to one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember.”

Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who served as Lewis’ defensive coordinator last year, 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.”

Lewis said the decision was relatively easy.

“It’s either hold on to the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times we can be spending together,” he said. “Because I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship, Daddy is going to be there. I can’t miss that.”

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