|Ray Lewis told his teammates this will be his last run in the playoffs. He's calling it a career. (US Presswire)|
Ray Lewis announcing his intention to retire at the end of the postseason shouldn't be that much of a surprise, considering he's 37 and potentially returning from a torn triceps this Sunday after undergoing strenuous rehabilitation the past 12 weeks.
Even so, there was a general feeling that Lewis would keep playing, even into his 40s, inside the Ravens' locker room. Though Lewis isn't the player he was in the early to mid-2000s, he still commands respect in the locker room and can still compete on the NFL stage.
But his time is up, as Lewis stated he wanted to spend more time with his children, especially since his oldest son, Ray Lewis III, is heading to the University of Miami on a football scholarship.
Lewis has filled many roles in the locker room, from teacher to counselor to motivator. Receiver Torrey Smith had a similar upbringing to Lewis, and the two would often share stories with each other.
"He talked to me about a lot of different things," Smith said. "We've been through a lot of similar things in life. Growing up and even now. To have him as someone to talk to and lean on, as an older guy and a mentor, has been a blessing."
Before speaking to the press and announcing his intention, Lewis told his team in a morning meeting that this postseason would be his last hurrah. He's rehabbed his torn triceps as much as possible, for the sheer possibility of making one last run for a second Super Bowl title.
During the preseason, Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker admitted he was star struck after meeting Lewis for the first time. And for a while, it didn't sink in that he was on the same team as one of the NFL's greatest players.
Now that this will be his lone season with Lewis, Tucker said he expects the Ravens to come together to try to send Lewis out as a champion.
"The words he shared with us today were all about loyalty, winning this, starting with game one, starting inside-out from this locker room," Tucker said. "Anything he has to say, you're going to listen to and take to heart. I think that's what everybody did today."
Second-year linebacker Josh Bynes said he owes Lewis a lot for the recent success in his young career. Bynes was an undrafted free agent out of Auburn a year ago and spent time predominantly on the practice squad in both seasons until Lewis tore his triceps in Week 6 against Dallas.
Even though he was on the practice squad, Lewis was available for lessons and advice, whether it was in football or life. Bynes has started the past three games at middle linebacker, coming into his own as an NFL player.
"When he says something, your eyes and mind -- everything just zones in," Bynes said. "You know it's going to be from his heart, from something he's experienced. You want to take in everything you can from him. Hearing him speak still blows your mind. There are so many things you can take from Ray."
Even some of the other Ravens stars were hit hard with the news. Terrell Suggs admitted he was caught by surprise when Lewis told the team he would retire after Baltimore's final game.
"All of us have that day coming," Suggs said. "Just like an NFL player's career, there is a sunrise and there's a sunset.
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He let us know that the sun is setting for his career. He gets the opportunity to start doing things he didn't get to do, like going to his son's football games -- things like that we take for granted that are priceless. It's amazing, and sad all at the same time."
Unless the Ravens reach the AFC Championship, with No. 6 seed Cincinnati reaching the same stage, Sunday's game against the Colts will be the last time Lewis runs out onto the field in front of the home fans.
Ray Rice, who can generally be found next to Lewis at any given moment at the team's facility, said that it will be an emotional sight to see Lewis do his famous dance if he's in fact introduced for the last time at M&T Bank Stadium.
"That's when I think it's going to hit the city of Baltimore the most, that it could be possibly his last time coming through that tunnel," Rice said. "I just really can't prepare for that. The emotions are going to be took rough to even think about because Baltimore is Ray Lewis. When he comes out of that tunnel, everybody is electrified."
Follow Ravens reporter Jason Butt on Twitter: @CBSRavens and @JasonButtCBS.