OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There were times this season when 36-year-old Ray Lewis showed his age on the field.
The Baltimore Ravens' standout middle linebacker acknowledges this. Upon assessing his overall body of work, however, Lewis feels no regret.
"You are going to always make a bad play, you are always going to make a good play. It's never about that," Lewis said. "It's about the consistency, or how consistent you can approach every week, week-in and week-out."
If that is indeed the criteria for judging one's performance, then 2011 was another very good year for Lewis. Playing in his 16th NFL season, he led the league's third-ranked defense with 98 tackles and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for a 13th time despite missing four games with a toe injury.
This week, Lewis and Baltimore (12-4) have a bye week before launching their fourth playoff run in four seasons. This just might be the final push for Lewis in his quest to get a second Super Bowl ring, but he has no intention of making this all about him.
"I have a true obligation, first of all, to myself to play the game with nothing else on my mind," he said. "The second thing I have is an obligation to my teammates -- just to give it everything I've got."
"Put it this way: I think Ray Lewis has a lot of football left in him," Harbaugh said after Thursday's practice. "He's going to know when it's time. But it's not time. It's time to go win a football game a week from Sunday, and that's all any of us are looking at right now."
"It's a different persona when 52 is not in the middle, when 52 is not making the calls, when 52 is not lining us up," Suggs said. "He's definitely the leader. There's nobody who's put more blood, sweat and tears into building this Raven organization than Ray Lewis. He's the general, and will always be the general. I love the man like a big brother, and always will. He is the backbone, the heart and soul, of our team."
"We have the team to do it now. We don't have too many more excuses. Let's go do it right now," Lewis said. "Then whatever else comes after that for all of your careers, you go enjoy it, but go win a championship. There are a lot of men that came in this business, and that's the one thing they have left this business without, and that's the ring. I have touched it before. To go back with this group of men could be a special thing."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press