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Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

The early 2000 incident made Lewis one of the most scrutinized and polarizing players in the NFL. His former teammates and coaches say it also spurred a shift with the linebacker, who fully devoted himself to football. He won the first of his two Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2000 and was the leader of an elite defense that smothered the Giants in the Super Bowl, making good on Lewis' promise to get Modell a championship. Lewis waited 12 more years to attain his second Super Bowl title, his self-proclaimed "last ride" ending with a Ravens coronation.

Beyond any statistic, Lewis, he of the fiery pregame pep talks and unrelenting work ethic, was known for his ability to inspire and elevate those around him. Capitalizing partly on Lewis' success and the play of the team's defense, a plethora of Ravens defensive coordinators or linebackers coaches got head coaching jobs and solid but unspectacular defensive players landed big free-agent deals elsewhere.

Younger Ravens followed Lewis' lead, integrating themselves in his detailed film study sessions and his rigorous workouts. Safety Ed Reed was the Ravens' first-round pick in 2002, also out of Miami. He developed a close on-field relationship with Lewis that made the Ravens defense one of the gold standards in the league for nearly a decade.

Now, it's a legitimate possibility that Lewis and Reed, who both played their final game as Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, will go into the Hall of Fame in back-to-back years. Reed is eligible next year.

"I believe my big brother is one of the greatest football players to ever put on a uniform," Reed said. "Everything he displayed about the game -- on the field and off the field -- by being a leader and a constant professional truly set a great example for those around him."

 

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