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Parasiliti: Lewis' exit leaves many facing unknown

January 06, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

The unknown is a very scary place.

The reason is obvious. No one knows what to expect when heading somewhere they have never been.

On Wednesday, a trio of adventurers stood at unknown’s entrance, waiting to walk through the doorway of what will be the Twilight Zone.

They were Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens and the fan base which worships both of them.

Lewis announced he would end his 17-year career at the end of the Ravens’ current playoff run.

The timing was abrupt. There would be no victory tour. It created an inexact time table, since Sunday was his last home game.

He could have worn No. 52 for the last time as early as 24 hours ago. Or he could pull it on a couple more times for the next month. It’s all based on the Ravens’ success in the postseason.

But come July, the trip into uncharted territory begins.

It will be the first time the Ravens will ever start a season without Lewis being part of it.

Lewis was the second player — following Jonathan Ogden — drafted by Baltimore after the team decided to fly Cleveland’s Brown coop for the charming nest in the Charm City.

From Day One, Lewis was the foundation of a very intimidating persona that made teams fear playing the Ravens. That run might rival those of the Oakland Raiders’ “Commitment to Excellence” days and the old “Monsters of the Midway” Chicago Bears.

Lewis’ position was to be the quarterback of the defense and with his speed, his aggressiveness and his ability to whip his teammates into a frenzy, which became hallmark traits of the middle linebacker position he helped to redefine over the majority of two decades.

Lewis was definitely the center of attention. Every player wanted to be Ray Lewis on the field and every franchise wanted a Ray Lewis-type on their team.

But now, it’s all entering an American Pie moment — Three factions admired most are about to take the last train for the coast.

It’s the day the music will die, at least in the way that most have known during the post-Colts era.

Everyone knew that this day was going to happen, someday.

In fact, Lewis, the Ravens and fans got an early taste of it for most of this year as the iconic purple warrior was sidelined with a torn triceps. He missed 10 games and nothing was the same for the Ravens or their fans.

The usually top-flight defense floundered to 17th in the NFL and no one was really as scared to play the Ravens.

Obviously, a new day will be dawning as Baltimore looks for ways to not only fill the void left by Lewis’ departure, but the Ravens will have to find a new face for its franchise and identity by which to live.

For the Ravens and their fans, they see what’s ahead.

For Lewis, his ability to recognize the end should be commended. Most athletes of his stature rarely leave the game on their own terms.

His injury may have been his blessing. He took the time to see everything he was missing and realized it was time to leave.

There have been whispers that he has lost a step on the field. He also had his “George Bailey” moment. He was able to see what life had been without him.

It was a wonderful life, but he had missed so much with his family, specifically time with his sons.

And now, it looks like he will be drawing on his fame for a cushy athletic retirement package, aka an ESPN analysis job. He will join the likes of former teammate Trent Dilfer, the guy who held up the offensive end of Baltimore’s deal while Lewis and the defense won Super Bowl XXXV.

Wednesday began the final act for Lewis, whose commitment to be the best athlete possible for one team and one city never wavered. Meanwhile, he continued to evolve as a man and a public figure.

He figured out what his place is in society. Just being an athlete isn’t good enough.

Like so many of us who have watched Lewis from afar, we witnessed a brash kid joining the team spouting and holding many promises. He delivered on that front.

The brashness stayed on the field, but off it, Lewis reinvented himself, seemingly starting in 2000 when he was indicted on murder charges in connection with two stabbing deaths in Atlanta. He stopped taking his fame as a right and honored it as an advantage for charitable means.

For Ray Lewis, the unknown of the future won’t be that scary.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com

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