This afternoon on ESPN’s NFL Live, host Trey Wingo and a group of analysts offered their reactions to today’s news that Baltimore Ravens linebacker and Super Bowl XXXV MVP Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest defensive player ever, has decided to retire from the NFL after this season. Analyst comments:
Three-time Super Bowl champion Mark Schlereth:
“I know he has lost a step. I know he’s not the player that he once was. I still look at him as a great player and emotional leader, and all the different things that he brings to an organization. … There’s just something about Ray Lewis. You expect Sundays to see 52 out there – pregame, getting everybody going. Then during the course of the game just flying around making plays. I was actually shocked to hear this announcement.”
Former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor:
“It’s always shocking when a great player leaves the game. Unfortunately, it happens to everybody. We understand that. It is a tough emotional time. The timing of it is interesting. He will provide an emotional boost for the team. He’s not completely healthy, but he is still Ray Lewis. He is still going to bring energy. He’s still going to bring leadership. He’s going to bring passion. That place will be electric on Sunday.”
Former NFL linebacker Tom Jackson:
“One of the top five guys, maybe, to play the position. … When you look at his career, what he was able to accomplish over the years, the longevity, the excellence, you start doing a shell game with those top five guys to play the game, Ray Lewis is somewhere in there. … As a player, his skillset was outstanding, but emotionally, in terms of inspiring guys around him to be a better player in your own right, I think there is no one who has ever been better at that than Ray Lewis.
“As we watch him now make this announcement, if I am one of his teammates … then I am going to do everything I can to make sure that it’s not a game, it’s not two games, it’s not three games, but it’s four games that are going to be played by him and give him a chance to walk off as so few do – with a world championship.”
Former Baltimore Ravens teammate Trent Dilfer:
“He was the best defensive player on the field every game he played in. Off the field he was the best. He had this unique ability to resonate with every single person in the locker room. And that’s hard to do. In the NFL, unfortunately, sometimes the guy who is most productive has the loudest voice and that messaging is wrong. Well, that’s not the case with Ray. He is the most productive player but his messaging within the locker room is always right.
“The biggest thing that goes unsaid about Ray is how much he invests in the relationships with his teammates. You see the antics. You see the enthusiasm, the passion on the field, but off the field he’s the first guy to go sit at a locker with someone that’s struggling with something, whether it’s football related or not football related. He has that personal touch. … You trust everything about him and he makes everybody better.
“There’s an intensity to him. That intensity is authentic. It’s genuine and it’s always directed at making the football organization better. … When I say he’s the best, really in my experience in the National Football League, I’ve never seen a person better than him at those three layers: preparation, leadership and play.”
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