[QODLink]
American Sport

Lewis gunning for Superbowl glory

Ravens linebacker puts thoughts of retirement aside ahead of taking to NFL's greatest stage against the San Fran 49ers.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2013 11:47
Lewis is one step from a fairy-tale finish to his glittering 17-season career [Reuters]

For weeks, no one could determine when The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour would draw to a close.

Since Lewis announced on January 2 his "last ride'' in the NFL would coincide with the end of the Baltimore Ravens' playoff run, there was the possibility that each game would be his last.

Now, after successful stops in Denver and New England, there is no longer any doubt: Win or lose, Lewis will perform for the final time on February 3, in New Orleans on the NFL's grandest stage.

Real prize

It wouldn't be surprising if Lewis approached the Super Bowl with a feeling of finality, but the 37-year-old middle linebacker insisted this week that he's thinking only about helping the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.

"Honestly, outside of putting my head in the playbook and studying San Fran, I really haven't thought about anything else,'' Lewis said.

"It's going to be a great day, period, no matter what happens. And that's kind of the way I've approached it,'' he said.

"I haven't even said, 'Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?' I really haven't. Because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize.''

Now in his 17th season, Lewis is preparing for his second Super Bowl - the first in 12 years. The last time he played for the NFL championship, Lewis earned MVP honours in Baltimore's 34-7 win over the New York Giants.

After waiting all this time to get back, Lewis has no intention of merely settling for being part of the big game.

"The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl ... It's great to get there, don't get me wrong, but to win it is something special. "

- Ray Lewis

"The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl,'' he said.

"It's great to get there, don't get me wrong, but to win it is something special.''

And then, only then, Lewis will think about what it means to walk off the gridiron for the final time.

"You feel that confetti drop, I'll probably reflect then, when I'm there,'' he said.

"But, it really hasn't crossed my mind like that.''

Big fan

San Francisco inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who wears No. 52, has nothing but admiration for Baltimore's No. 52.

"I'm just a big fan of him, period,'' Willis said.

"Just his enthusiasm on the field, the passion he plays with. I've always been a big fan of those who play with passion, such as Ray Lewis. I know people always want to make comparisons and talk about torches and all this. At the end of the day, I always say I can only be the best player I can be.

"As a fellow linebacker, being at the Pro Bowl and being able to be coached by the same coach (Mike Nolan) at one point in time in our careers, we've become friends. Ray's one of those guys, he loves to give his wisdom and give his knowledge, and I'm the type that I love to listen.''

Lewis has been with the Ravens since 1996, and it wasn't long after his arrival that he became the captain of the defence. As his career went on, he lost a step but made up for it with tireless film study and sharp instincts.

After his rookie year, the only time Lewis didn't get a Pro Bowl invitation were those seasons when he was beset by injury - 2002, 2005 and 2012.

Last year he received his 13th Pro Bowl nod despite missing four games with a foot injury. This season, after tearing his right triceps on October 14, there was a strong possibility he wouldn't be back.

At first, the Ravens believed he was done for the year. But Lewis vowed to return, and his teammates were determined to make it happen.

"We knew we wanted to make the playoffs in order for Ray to have a chance to come back,'' safety Ed Reed said.

"He's that engine, that motor that's going to go all the time. He understands what the offence is trying to do to you when you're talking about the run game. He's calling out plays before they even happen. That's what you really miss when Ray is out.''

Since his return, Lewis has 44 tackles in three games. He isn't limping into retirement; rather, he's headed out with a flourish.

"He's played really well. He's played just like he's always played,'' coach John Harbaugh said.

Lewis attributes his involuntary 10-game absence as the reason behind his resurgence on the field.

"I've always said that anytime you can give your body a true rest - not just your body - anytime you can give your mind a certain rest from the game and from the every week wear and tear, when you come back you come back just as fresh as ever,'' Lewis said.

"For me right now, I feel fresh. My mind is fresh, my body is fresh and I'm just excited to really be able to end the thing up the right way.''

962

Source:
AP
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Activists say 'Honor Diaries' documentary exploits gender-based violence to further an anti-Islamic agenda.
As Syria's civil war escalates along the Turkish border, many in Turkey are questioning the country's involvement.
Treatment for autism in the region has progressed, but lack of awareness and support services remains a challenge.
The past isn't far away for a people exiled from Crimea by Russia and the decades it took to get home.
New report highlights plight of domestic helpers in the United Kingdom, with critics comparing it to kefala system.
join our mailing list