One of the greatest careers in NFL history is about to end. Linebacker Ray Lewis said Wednesday he will retire after the Ravens' final playoff game.
"It's time for me to create a new legacy," said Lewis, who is returning Sunday from a triceps injury he suffered Oct. 14. The Ravens will host the Colts in an AFC wild-card playoff game.
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"I talked to my team today. I talked to them about life in general. And everything that starts has an end," Lewis said. "For me, I told my team that this will be my last ride."
Lewis returned to practice Dec. 5 and was added to the active roster last week.
"He had the one quality all of the best have: He made all the players, coaches and people around him better," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "It has been a privilege and a joy to be with him throughout his career. We in the Ravens have been very fortunate to be around this great man and player."
Lewis has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro inside linebacker seven times. He is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and led the Ravens in tackles in 14 of his 17 seasons. The only years he wasn't their leading tackler were 2002, 2005 and 2012, when he missed a total of 31 games with injuries. He has 31 interceptions and 41.5 sacks.
"I never played the game for individual stats. I only played the game to make my team a better team," said Lewis, who led the Ravens to their only Super Bowl championship after the 2000 season. Baltimore beat the Giants, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV.
Teammates said they were surprised by the announcement, even though Lewis is 37.
"It was sad,'' linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It affected me, because for the past 10 years of my career, I've been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays. It's going to be one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember."
Lewis said he wants to spend more time with his two sons. While he was sidelined this season, Lewis watched them play on the same high school football team in Florida, and he plans to watch Ray Lewis III play next season at the University of Miami, where Lewis was a star linebacker.
"I thought, shoot, the guy could play forever and would play forever," said Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was Lewis' defensive coordinator last season in Baltimore. "Great person, great man, great player, just an unbelievable human being. What he's done for that organization, that city and for that matter, so many people. He's obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will be sorely missed."