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Ray Lewis' Value To Ravens

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FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the New England Patriots during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the New England Patriots during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis will be heading into his 17th NFL season, virtually unheard of in the league, much less for playing such a violent position. No one is denying that he has lost a step or three, but no one also keeps themselves in the shape that he does, by training like a maniac 12 months a year, eating right and watching videotape of the team's upcoming opponents.

So many free agents have joined the Ravens and reportedly said they had never watched tape the way Ray, Ed and the others broke it down. What Ray has lost in speed he makes up in strategy, positioning and pre-play placement of his defensive teammates. His value as a coach on the field and his presence on the sidelines and locker room is priceless, not only to his defensive teammates, but to the entire team, including the coaches.

Ray is the face of the franchise and deserves to be respected as such. He should be the last player out of the tunnel at every home game, regardless of which side of the ball is introduced. His inspirational speeches motivate the players and his recent one on BaltimoreRavens.com after the AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots is one for the ages and should make everyone excited already for the 2012 season.