National / Sports / October 17, 2012

Torn to pieces: Injury ends season for Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis was always the loudest voice in a land of giants.

In games, on the sideline, on YouTube, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker built an air of invincibility during his 17-year NFL career.

Nothing could hold him back — not opponents, not injuries, not critics.

But that indestructible sheath may have finally come undone.

MRI results revealed Monday that Lewis suffered a torn triceps in Baltimore’s 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys this week. It likely means the end of his season — and maybe his career, multiple sources reported.

In a game of abbreviated, injury-riddled careers, Lewis has defined excellence and longevity. He is a 13-time Pro Bowler, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl MVP.

And at 37, he still played with something to prove.

In the 1996 draft, there were four linebackers taken ahead of him. Scouts said Lewis was too short, too undersized. It only fed the focus and intensity that made him special.

Lewis has been everything an NFL defender should be: a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and coaches — a teeth-gritting, crouched maniac who glared over the tops of offensive linemen with a brazen hatred and grit.

When Lewis began his NFL career, Bill Clinton was in his first term as president and 2-Pac was still alive. Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman was 4 years old.

Lewis’ first source of hunger as an athlete came from growing up in a fatherless home, he has repeatedly said. Elbert Ray Jackson was a drug addict and convicted felon.

But as Lewis’ high school football coach revealed, Jackson also held nearly every team record in the history of Kathleen High School (Fla). Lewis channeled his pain toward upending those records. Some nights he did pushups and sit-ups until he passed out, he has said.

Lewis went on to star at the University of Miami.

There is, however, one glaring blemish to his legacy. Following the 2000 Super Bowl, a fight broke out between Lewis’ entourage and another group, resulting in the stabbing deaths of two people. Lewis and two other men were charged with aggravated murder.

Prosecutors claimed the all-Pro linebacker helped cover up the crime, but were ultimately unable to present enough evidence to implicate Lewis. The two sides reached a plea agreement in which Lewis pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and testified against his alleged accomplices.

The NFL fined him $250,000, which was at that point the largest non-substance-related penalty in league history. In years since, Lewis has been active in community service projects and has continued a stellar on-field career.

Whether Lewis will ever play another down of football is still unknown.

There are several reasons this may be the end. His son, Ray Lewis III, will play running back at the University of Miami next year — Lewis may shift his focus to serve exclusively as a mentor and cheering parent. Second, despite the 5-1 Ravens’ perennially dominant defense, opposing teams had noticeably begun to target Lewis, whose age-related decline was becoming increasingly apparent.

On the other hand, if Lewis has shown us anything during his career, this is not how he wants to go out. Perhaps he will attempt a comeback from a tough, late-career injury à la New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

But in either case, one thing is clear: we may never again see a player like Ray Lewis.

Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Tags:  2-Pac baltimore ravens denver broncos football mariano rivera miami nfl ray lewis ronnie hillman

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Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.




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