With Baltimore Ravens LB and certain future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis on the sidelines for the team's 31-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, his role was filled by two guys, who, while they will never be confused with Lewis, did a good enough job to get the job done. Linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo and Dannell Ellerbe filled in for Lewis at inside linebacker and which player got the reps was based on the down and distance as well as the skill set required for the specific play.
Ayanbadejo totaled four solo tackles and Ellerbe had three total, including two solo tackles. Brendon was in for more of the expected passing plays while Dannell got more reps when the Ravens thought the Bengals would be running the ball. This is Ayanbadejo's ninth year in the NFL while Ellerbe is only in his 3rd season.
Both players have played in Ray's shadow during their time in Baltimore, "BA" mostly on Special Teams and while "Ellerbeast" received a decent amount of playing time his rookie season next to Lewis in the team's 3-4 defensive scheme, he was frequently injured and Jameel McClain started 15 of 16 games in 2010 and has been the mainstay inside linebacker next to Lewis this season.
At some point, Lewis will announce his retirement and hang up his cleats prior to being honored with a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio. Whether it be at the end of this season or next, that time will come sooner than later and while it will be strange not see to the familiar #52 on the field, we just got a glimpse of what "Life without Ray" might look like in the all-too-near future.