Rice on Lewis: "He was like a father to me"
When Ray Lewis walked into the meeting room Wednesday, the Ravens couldn’t wait to hear his pep talk about their upcoming wild-card playoff game with the Indianapolis Colts.
Instead, they were floored to learn that he was retiring at the end of his 17th season.
“It was out of the blue actually. I thought he was going to give a speech how it’s time for the playoffs and opportunity. Threw a curveball at all of us,” said defensive end Arthur Jones. “Everybody was kind of pale face. Guys just sat there after the meeting before we went to our next meeting. It’s kind of a weird feeling.”
It was an especially difficult day for running back Ray Rice, who has a locker next to Lewis’. He was emotional in his response.
“He never actually told me. He always hinted that one day he is going to close the chapter on this game. But today, I definitely didn’t prepare for it,” said Rice, in his fifth season. “Mentally, he has raised me over the last couple of years. … I just can’t picture Baltimore without him.”
Terrell Suggs hasn’t played a game with Lewis this season. Suggs missed the first six games of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles, and when he returned Lewis already was out with a triceps tear.
In his 10th season, Suggs also has been playing through a biceps tear.
“It was sad. I’m not going to lie to you,” Suggs said. “When he went up there, I thought we were getting our, ‘Let’s go on a run in the playoffs’ speech. Not that.
“We thought the great Ray Lewis was going to play forever. I thought he was going to surpass Brett Favre and still be out there doing it well into his 40s. … All of us have that day coming. … There is a sunrise and there’s a sunset.”
Jones, in just his third season, has had his best with 4.5 sacks.
“It’s kind of shocking. It’s bittersweet. You cherish the time you have. You hate to see the guy leave,” Jones said. “I’m just honored to say I know him. He’s a great locker room guy and a great teammate and a great leader.”
Safety Bernard Pollard is in his second season with the Ravens and seventh overall.
"For me, it's truly a blessing to be able to say I got dressed and went into battle with that cat," he said. "We can't play this game forever."
Rice is still getting used to the idea that Lewis will be gone.
"He has kids, but I was one of his kids. It's like passing the torch down saying, 'I have to let you go,'" Rice said. "But I know he is always going to be there. It's just one of those days where you don't prepare for these kinds of things."
Torrey Smith attended Lewis' annoucement to media along with coach John Harbaugh. He felt he needed to be there.
"I just kind of wanted to witness it," said Smith, a receiver in just his second season. "I think he is probably the greatest linebacker to play the game. To have the opportunity to not only play with a person like that, but to call a person like that a friend and a brother, you have to be there to support him."
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata struck a somewhat philosophical tone when talking about Lewis.
"It's crazy. It makes you think you take it for granted with someone like that you have on the team. When he told us, I started thinking about things I probably could ask him, or things I could actually try to pick his brain about," said Ngata, in his seventh season. "Things like how to be great, not only on the field but off the field. So it's another chapter in his life that he's about to close and ... we all want to do our best to help him close it the best he can."
Jameel McClain, a fifth-year linebacker who is on the injured list after getting a spinal contusion last month, was at a loss trying to put into context what happened, how it felt or what it all means.
"It's one of those moments you can't explain. It's one of those moments you've got to be there for. I don't even thing giving you the words would do it any justice," McClain said. "We don't have to confront it right now. What we have to confront right now is who we're playing. ...and how we're going to finalize a great legacy."