Since bringing home the Super Bowl title, the Ravens have lost four of their top team leaders. Ray Lewis and Matt Birk have both decided to call it quits, capping off two brilliant careers, and Anquan Boldin and Ed Reed were victims of a tight salary cap situation in Baltimore. But all is not lost, the Ravens are a team that is still oozing with talent and a number of key players who are eager and willing to step up and take on a leadership role.
On the offensive side of the ball, it is a preconceived notion that the quarterback must be the best leader on the field. However, that does not always seem like the case with Joe Flacco. Flacco lacks the strong personality type of a Tom Brady or a Drew Brees, both of whom are extremely vocal on the field and lead their team's pregame rituals. Having said that, I am a huge fan of the silent swagger that Flacco seems to carry himself with, he lets his play do most of the talking and sometimes that can be just as inspiring to a team as a quarterback who is physically and vocally getting his team fired up. Tailback Ray Rice also seems ready to step up and be a leader on the offense, it is possible that he could bring the same lunch pail mentality and intensity to the field that made Anquan Boldin such a great leader in Baltimore. In an interview with Baltimoreravens.com, Rice stated, "I think where I'm at with this offense right now, I'm at the pinnacle of my career, now is the time to be a leader..... Sometimes it's going to be vocal and sometimes it's going to be the rookies coming in just watching Ray Rice. They just have to watch, I'm a workman. They'll see the way i work, and they'll understand these things don't come by accident".
On defense, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have been two of the NFL's all-time great leaders for over a decade. The impact they had on the locker room is not one that can be replaced over night. Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, however, still remain and have been sort of secondary leaders on the defense for the past few years. It will be time for them to take the next step in their leadership development. We all know Suggs has the intimidation factor down and he is very vocal both on and off the field. But the thing that made Lewis and Reed so great was their dedication to film study and their hunger for knowledge of the game. I think this is a task that Suggs and Ngata must take on, along with new veterans like Chris Canty, Michael Huff, and Elvis Dumervil.