Ray Lewis learned a little something when given a chance to watch his sons play high school football while unable to do so himself because of torn triceps this fall; He'd be at peace calling 2012 his final season.
Lewis stunned his Ravens teammates and an especially large horde of media Wednesday at the Under Armour Performance Center by announcing that he'll retire after the playoffs.
"Everything that starts has an end. That's just life, and for me, today, I told my team that this would be my last ride," Lewis said. "I told them I just felt so much peace and the way I am with my decision because of everything I've done in this league. I've done it. I've done it, and there's no accolade that I don't have individually. But I've never played the game for individual stats. I've only played the game to make my team be a better team.
"And now, God is calling, God is calling in so many other areas of life, and my children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father - the ultimate for 17 years. And whether it's jumping on a plane, jump right back, go to school and 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. It's my turn to give them back something. So it's either hold on to the game and let my kids miss out on times that we can be sharing together because I always promised my son that if he got a full-ride scholarship, Daddy is going to be there, and I can't miss that.
"I don't know if I can sit in a meeting room and fight with that war. One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from my teammates because that's my brotherhood. The only thing I ever played for is to be right there and to raise Ed (Reed) and to be with Sizzle (Terrell Suggs) for so long and sit next to them, and be so much on the same path. Does that part hurt? Absolutely. You can never rebuild those bonds. Those bonds are forever, but the chapter is huge for me to now step into other areas of life."
Lewis, 37, was selected by the Ravens/Browns organization in the first round of the 1996 draft and developed into one of the greatest middle linebackers in the history of the game.
He has played 228 regular season contests, recording 1,573 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 67 passes defended, 31 interceptions, 19 forced fumbles and 20 fumble recoveries over 17 years in the NFL.
Lewis is a 13-time Pro Bowler and seven-time first-team All-Pro. He was named Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in both 2000 and 2003, and led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2000 season, earning Super Bowl MVP in the process.
Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was on the Ravens' defensive staff for coach John Harbaugh's first four seasons in Baltimore and served as Lewis' defensive coordinator in 2011, praised the linebacker during an afternoon conference call.
"Great man, great leader on and off the field," Pagano said. "Great person, great man, great player. Just an unbelievable human being. ... He'll be sorely missed."
After spending nearly two decades with the Ravens, Lewis said he believed he owed it to the organization and the team's fans to announce that this would be his final playoff run before it was over.
"I think my fans, I think my city, I think they deserved it," he said. "They deserve that whenever this road stops for me, not just to walk away and be like, 'Oh, I'm done.' I think we all get to enjoy what Sunday will feel like, that this will be the last time 52 plays in a uniform."