No longer centerpieces of the Ravens defense, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will both be back in Baltimore Sunday for vastly different reasons.
Lewis returns to town to be enshrined in the Ravens Ring of Honor while Reed will be in town hoping to play his first professional game in a non-Ravens jersey, looking to help take down his former team.
It makes for yet another interesting sidebar after the Ravens opened their season as part of the NFL's Thursday night kick-off, and then last week unveiled their Super Bowl banner before a home-opening win over the Browns. And you can add quarterback Joe Flacco's interesting Sunday, which included the birth of his second child hours before he took the field against the Browns.
Baltimore welcomes back its two greatest defensive legends, staples of a unit that ranked among the NFL's elite for more than a decade.
Lewis is only seven months removed from his retirement, and his former quarterback had some playful words about the upcoming induction.
"Well, that was quick," Flacco joked. "Ray is already corporate, man. He's already giving the company line about whatever they want him to say. He's probably off the Raven bandwagon already - whatever. He'll be on it this week, of course. It'll be good to see Ray. It's always good to see Ray. Come on. He defines this city. It'll be pretty cool to have him back."
Coach John Harbaugh was a bit more serious when asked about what it means to have Lewis joining the organization's greats in the team's version of a Hall of Fame.
"Ray going into the Ring of Honor is obviously a tremendous honor," Harbaugh said. "It's an honor for Ray, and it's also an honor for the Ravens and for all of our fans and for our city and state and everything else. I don't think I need to describe what Ray means to the organization or to football and what he's come to mean in a lot of ways to anybody who follows football in our country. He's a good friend, he's a great person, and he's someone that I feel blessed to have been associated with for the past five years and going forward as friends for the rest of our lives. But it'll be fun to see him, and we're looking forward to it."
Reed's role in Sunday's contest is far less certain. Reed, who signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Houston Texans in the offseason, has missed the first two games of 2013 with a hip injury.
He could debut for his new team against his former team, but he was listed as questionable for the contest and it's far from a sure thing that he'll play.
"I haven't played in three weeks (since) the start of the season. I'm not confident about nothing, but going day to day the way I've been," Reed said. "There's no confidence about it if I haven't played. You can't be confident if you haven't been on the field."
Reed said he's not approaching this game any differently even though he faces the only team he has known before now. But it seemed to be a bit more special to him that it involves Lewis' honor.
"Somebody knew who they were playing and where I was at. This was put together," Reed said. "This was not something that we don't know how this business goes. It was planned that way for a reason. But I'm excited for Ray - definitely excited for Ray. It's something that could have happened as soon as he retired. We knew it was going to happen. It's a special day. It really is going to be a special day, (with) me coming back, Ray going into the Ring of Honor, the Texans playing the Ravens. You know, that was always a good game when I was with the Ravens playing against the Texans. It was always a great game."
Torrey Smith and Flacco both said it'll be odd going up against Reed after facing him in practice their entire careers leading up to now.
"Reed is like a big brother to me. He's a guy that I respected long before I became a Raven, and I've grown closer to him since I've been in the league," Smith said. "I've been texting him throughout camp and we've talked a little - not necessarily trash talk - but we were messing around, just joking about ... We joke about whatever, whether he jokes about what I'm tweeting about or he'll shoot me a text about it.
"But to see a guy like that on the other side, one of the greats to play the game, that's how you approach it. He's one of the best safeties ever, and he still plays at a very high level. Obviously, he's a friend, but we play against a lot of people who we're friends with. There's definitely something special about Reed, and we know as receivers we're going to have to be on our 'Ps' and 'Qs,' because he guesses right a lot of time, and we can't just give him anything."
Said Flacco: "I think it's strange just because everybody views him as a Raven. ... The fact of the matter is that I knew Ed Reed as a Baltimore Raven before I started playing on the Baltimore Ravens. So, it makes it a little bit different. It kind of makes him a little bit more than a teammate of mine. At one point, I was a fan of his, so I think that's what makes it a little bit different. And that's what makes it different for everybody around Baltimore and everybody around the country is that they know him as Baltimore Raven."
Linebacker Terrell Suggs expects Reed to play and also said it'll be strange to see him heading to the opposite sideline.
"It's going to be good to see him back out there playing. The relationship me and No. 20 (have), feel other guys are bigger than football," Suggs said. "I'll be happy to be out there to see him, but he's my opponent. He's no longer wearing our colors, and we will try to win the game."