Sunday mornings have been a bit different for Ray Lewis, who retired after last season's Super Bowl championship run.
Lewis suited up in a Baltimore Ravens uniform for 17 seasons, becoming the team's unquestioned leader and motivator. he helped the franchise contend for the playoffs in most seasons while winning two Super Bowls. He was the second overall pick in franchise history in 1996 and became, arguably, the greatest middle linebacker the game's ever seen.
Now that Lewis is retired, he's spending more time with his kids at his home in Florida. He's also working with ESPN as an NFL analyst, appearing on the network's Sunday countdown show.
Lewis will be inducted into Baltimore's Ring of Honor this Sunday when the Ravens host the Texans. He spoke with reporters on a conference call Tuesday to talk about life after football, his memories with the Ravens and former teammate Ed Reed.
Here were some of the highlights of the call:
How Sundays have changed for him now that he doesn't play football anymore: "Honestly, I've been [asked that] by people in a lot of different ways. I went at the game so hard. I enjoyed every moment of it, but there was a part of me ... My family had to sacrifice so much. My kids, they were always adjusting to me. Honestly, since I've been done with the game, everything I've been doing - if it's not with ESPN - it's been with my kids. The time with them, just being there and them knowing that their dad is home, here to [relax] and doesn't have to always be away - it's the ultimate now. I appreciated the game, I love the game so much, but I can't tell you that I have withdrawals [thinking], ‘I really miss the game.' I talk to the [Ravens players] regularly; I text them regularly - just general conversation every day. So, it's not like I'm disconnected to them. It's been a great adjustment, to sum it up in all words."
On going into the Ring of Honor after seeing former teammates do so: "That's so funny, because I have ... I don't remember seeing one [Ring of Honor ceremony], because we were always in the locker room, so I never really saw what it would look like. I may have seen one. Now, with me being that person ... I saw Teddy Bruschi's [ceremony in New England] the other day, and I'm just watching from afar [thinking], ‘Wow, I have to get ready to do something like that in front of my city that I've been with since I was 18 or 19 years old.' It's one of the most humbling feelings that you ever go through. You think, ‘Wow, I was able to stand on my own, finish my career, go out on top and now return back to my city.' To be honest, it's very humbling."
On being a broadcaster for ESPN: "There are not really any new surprises. The greatest thing I've got is I've got a great cast of guys that I work around. I've known half of these guys most of my life. I won a Super Bowl with Trent [Dilfer], and Steve Young was one of my favorite quarterbacks growing up, so working with him on that set [is fun]. [I] came in [to the NFL in 1996] with Keyshawn [Johnson]. Tom Jackson - me and him have kind of always been in contact. [I've] worked with ‘Boomer' [Chris Berman] and Cris Carter. So, all the guys - they really make it OK. You relax in very quickly and you kind of turn into who you are and just share conversations based on your knowledge of the game. I like it. The schedule for me gives me a lot of time to spend with my kids, so it's a great gig for me."
On where he thinks the game of football is now throughout its recent evolution: "I just think football always evolves, every year. Every year it's going to be something new. It's going to be some things we like, some things we don't like. Some things that aren't going to be this way, aren't going to be that way. And I think, honestly, sometimes you've got to almost - to where the game is going now - realistically, I think the best way to solve a lot of problems in the game is to leave the game alone. And I kind of said that last night, watching [Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Dashon Goldson] get [suspended for an illegal hit], those are the things ...
"You kind of have to leave the game alone and let it evolve itself. We create so many of these rules that you kind of take away from the game. Steve Young made a great point last night when he was saying if you let the game go back to being physical up front, then you've got a better chance that it doesn't have to be as physical on the back end. But when you're telling wide receivers you can just come off [the line of scrimmage] and run full speed, then you know you're protecting the receiver, that you can't get hit a certain way - there's a lot of confusion in there. And I think the way to clear that up is to make it simple. Make it more simple again. Just go back to letting the game take care of itself."
On former teammate Ed Reed, who will play the Ravens as a Houston Texan this week: "When you know Ed ... Ed is just one of those guys whose soul is so old - it's just funny. He's such a pure man at heart; he's just genuine. He wears his heart on his sleeve. To watch him from afar, when he was playing with the [Miami] Hurricanes, and then to be able to become a teammate of him, be in his life and be around him and help him out with whatever adjustments ... It's just awesome to see the person that he became in this game and the person that he is off the field. He has a son now, a beautiful little boy who is the spitting image of him. I just think he's turned into the ultimate man, with the way that he's settled into his own. It's a good thing to watch, because I watched [Reed] when he was a kid."
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