Amongst all the talk swirling around Ray Lewis’ retirement announcement Wednesday, isn’t the most urgent question how does his return this weekend impact the game on the field? He’s the team’s leader, but he’s also 37 and hasn’t played in more than two months.
We can talk about his future as an NFL commentator later, right? (Lewis is reportedly ready to join ESPN’s klatch of former players, post-Ravens.)
At ESPN.com, NFL Nation blogger Paul Kuharsky wrote that he thinks the attention around Lewis’ announcement this week will “sap a little bit of energy from the Ravens during the week and actually be a bit of an advantage to the upset-minded Colts.”
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, also, of course, the Ravens’ former defensive coordinator, believes otherwise. He was quoted saying “there will be a ton of energy” on the Baltimore sideline with Lewis’ return.
"We just know that coming back, I'm pretty sure they'll probably introduce the defense and he'll be the last one out, and we all know how that goes,” said Pagano, according to NFL.com. “He'll ignite and incite a riot, so to speak, and there'll be a ton of energy on that football team and on that sideline and in that stadium. He's their leader. Anytime you get your leader back, it's an added spark."
Asked about Lewis’ retirement at a press conference, Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney talked about the middle linebacker’s competitive nature — even on display at the Pro Bowl. “I’ve been around him a few times at the Pro Bowl and it really is amazing how passionate he is,” Freeney said. “Even in a Pro Bowl game. You’re like, ‘Alright, ready to go on the field now,’ and he’s raring to go, suited up, and has got the great speech ready. There’s only one Ray.”
Meanwhile, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said, “It will be fun to one day say I got to play against Ray Lewis.” Not so sure fun is the right word, Andrew.
However, it’s also interesting to note that USA Today reported that Ravens coach John Harbaugh was “bubbling” as he strolled down the team’s headquarters Wednesday, implying that maybe he was secretly pleased with Lewis’ decision. Who wants to tell a Hall of Famer that it’s time?
"Let's just talk about how great the Indianapolis Colts are," USA Today quoted Harbaugh.
We already know that Lewis’ retirement is having an effect on tickets for Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium — his final home game win or lose. Just prior to his announcement yesterday, the Baltimore Business Journal noted that the average ticket price on the secondary market was the lowest among all the NFL Wild Card games. The Baltimore Business Journal noted that the cheapest ticket for the Ravens-Colts matchup was $92 and 50-yard line seats were going for $800 a pop.
By Thursday afternoon, 24 hours after Lewis’ announcement, the lowest-priced tickets to the game, according to the website Tiqiq, were going for $142. Fifty-yard line seats listed in the $900 range or higher.
The bottom line is that injuries on the defensive side of the ball, not just to Lewis, but linebackers Terrell Suggs, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Jameel McClain — who is out for the rest of the season — have really hurt the Ravens this year. A veteran of Lewis’ stature and leadership ability will surely be helpful against the Colts.
At the same time, the announcement was perfectly timed. Baltimore can give beloved No. 52 the send-off he deserves. A win would be nice, too,