On what could be Ray Lewis' final day on the field as a Baltimore Raven, Mark Kriegel reflected on Lewis' career in the league for NFL Network's "GameDay Morning":
A contradiction? Sure. But that's Ray Lewis.
That's why he resonated the way he did -- in the locker room, on the streets of Baltimore, on television. He began as a ball player, he ended as Knute Rockne, reconceived for the hip-hop generation.
Was he the best? Not quite. The most charismatic? Without question. He could inspire, instill fear. Don't tell me the Giants weren't scared of him. Speaking tongues. His entrances suggested a title fight. An epic. His life? Another kind of odyssey.
In 2000, Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction in connection with a double homicide. Within months, he was the Super Bowl MVP. By 2005, he was the cover of Madden.
He's still known for putting in work, and for good work, too. A warrior's instinct, a preacher's timing, a man who defied an athlete's most savage adversary: Time. Dick Butkus was 31 when he retired. Jack Lambert, 32. Lawrence Taylor, 34. Lewis is 37.
The 2012 Ravens were 5-1 with him ... 5-5 since.
And now the finale. I'd hoped it would come against Peyton Manning. But instead, it's Manning's successor. No problem.
But what's to say of Ray Lewis. Was he bad? Only if you accept Muhammad Ali's definition of a bad man. So I'll paraphrase Tony Montana and Jesus Christ. Say goodbye. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again. Go in peace Ray Lewis."