Our friends over at Russell Street Report got an exclusive interview with Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti. Tony Lombardi has been releasing some of the parts of his conversation with the big man and Bisciotti has been more than open to revealing some awesome stuff. One of the best tid-bits has been the real reason that Ray Lewis called it a career.
While most would assume that it is because the future Hall of Fame linebacker rode off into the sunset with his second ring, but apparently that is wrong. According to Bisciotti, Lewis had decided in the middle of the season and in the middle of his rehab that season.
Bisciotti even tried to get Lewis to take more time to mull over the decision on the off-chance that the Ravens weren't able to make it to the big game.
I remember he told me he didn’t want to tell the team for about a month. I said, ‘Do me a favor. Leave yourself time – by us keeping it quiet you have a month to decide before you tell the players.' And I said if it’s going to be a month, [John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome and I will] keep it close and it will give you an opportunity to change your mind because you have to acknowledge that this is a terrible time to make this decision, when you are grinding back the way you have [been]. To come back from an injury that would have sidelined people for five months and you’re trying to [come back in] 10 weeks.
Bisciotti's reasoning is solid. Most people would be willing to call it quits during a rehab that was grueling and tough, much less a player that had been at the peak of his profession and was sure to be a Hall of Fame player regardless of returning. But once able to get back into the fun part of playing, everyone would likely change their mind again. Bisciotti obviously wanted to have Lewis return again and finish his career in the right way and he didn't want the linebacker to regret his decision made at the wrong time.
However, Lewis was certain in his decision already. While Lewis did keep it quiet for a bit, the news eventually broke that he was going to retire at the end of the season regardless of how it went down, much to the shock of his teammates.
I really do think the players were shocked when he told them
Lewis' reasoning is incredibly solid and wise.
[Lewis] said to me just before his announcement, ‘You have to understand that while I’ve been training and recovering 20 hours a day I realized that I can’t do it anymore. ‘I can’t come back from another injury and I won’t take a chance on walking away hurt. But I know through this rehab that I can’t do it again. And so I’m protecting myself against that inevitability.
It's a lesson that a lot of players don't learn and it hurts them physically, mentally and it hurts their legacy. As Ravens' fans, we've seen it happen with Ed Reed just recently. A player that could have ridden off into the sunset behind a great career and great finale thought he had something left in the tank despite being hurt even more increasingly and slowing down. It led to Reed being on multiple teams that season and never finding a roster afterwards.
For a player of Ray Lewis' magnitude, leaving on his terms was the right way to do it.