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Lewis ends NFL career in championship fashion

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Lewis ends NFL career in championship fashion

NEW ORLEANS (AP) So, Ray Lewis, now that you've won a Super Bowl, what's next?

No, he's not going to that amusement park. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker is heading into retirement - and he can't wait.

``Now I get to see a different side of life,'' Lewis said Sunday night after helping the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31. ``My family, and my sons, my kids, they've sacrificed for me. Now I have the opportunity to sacrifice for them.''

Lewis ended his 17-year NFL career in perfect fashion, directing a successful goal-line stand that provided him a world championship to take into retirement. After the 49ers failed to score on three straight plays from the Baltimore 5-yard line in the closing minutes, the Ravens could begin celebrating their first Super Bowl title in 12 years.

``How else can you finish that off but with a goal-line stand?'' Lewis said. ``That is championship football.''

The 13-time Pro Bowl star began his final night on the football field with a motivational speech to his teammates. He ended it looking upward into a waterfall of silver streamers and purple confetti. And minutes later, he put his hands on the Lombardi Trophy.

``What we did as a team today was the ultimate,'' Lewis said.

As an individual, Lewis made seven tackles. Nothing special, really. He had 44 in Baltimore's previous three playoff games. But the Ravens played like champions behind Lewis, and as usual, they drew inspiration from him.

``There will never be another leader like him and we sent him out like his brothers,'' Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs. ``His legacy will go untainted.''

The last time Lewis played in a Super Bowl, he was voted MVP of Baltimore's 34-7 rout of the New York Giants. This time, Joe Flacco was the MVP because the Ravens' offense outplayed the team's usually reliable defense.

Ever since Lewis announced on Jan. 2 that this would be his ``last ride,'' the Ravens have talked about providing him a title to take into retirement. And so they did.

``It's pretty cool,'' Flacco said. ``Ray's a great person and everyone knows he's an unbelievable player, but he's the best teammate. It's unbelievable to send him out like this.''

What a journey it was.

After defeating Indianapolis at home to open the playoffs, the Ravens beat top-seeded Denver on the road and knocked off second-seeded New England. Then, underdogs again in the Super Bowl, Baltimore blew most of a 22-point lead in the second half before mounting one final defensive stop.

``To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I've ever been a part of in my career,'' Lewis said. ``What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage?''

Lewis' old buddy, 34-year-old Ed Reed, contributed a first-half interception. Jacoby Jones scored two touchdowns, and after the second - a 108-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter - he saluted his retiring teammate with a rendition of the ``squirrel'' dance Lewis made famous.

Days earlier, Lewis was confronted about his use of deer antler spray in his effort to return from the triceps injury. He vehemently denied trying the banned substance, and that sideshow fizzled out quickly enough so that it was not a distraction Sunday.

The Ravens will have another middle linebacker next season, but they will never have another Ray Lewis. Coach John Harbaugh was asked why the team responded so passionately to him and his effort to go out on top.

``If you're going to talk about the Ray thing, you want to ask about it, then the answer's got to be faith,'' Harbaugh said. ``I mean Ray is driven by spirituality and faith and that's what he draws on and that's where his strength comes from. So if you really want to know, I mean that's what he's tapping into and that's what makes it so beautiful and so perfect.''

Lewis was the second draft pick in Ravens' history, following Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Ogden, who was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame on Saturday, waved to his former teammate during the pregame coin flip Sunday.

Perhaps one day, Ogden will extend the same greeting to Lewis in Canton, Ohio.

For now, however, Lewis is looking to joining his family for some quiet time.

``No other way to go out and end a career. This is how you do it,'' Lewis said. ``Everything around me is my kids. Daddy gets to come home now. They aren't going to like me being at home all the time.''

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Will Suggs still be an impact player when he comes off PUP?

Will Suggs still be an impact player when he comes off PUP?

Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka are taking turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope leading up to veterans reporting to training camp. They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Terrell Suggs, 33-year-old outside linebacker

Best-case scenario:

Suggs makes a full recovery from Achilles injury and returns as a double-digit sack artist and three-down linebacker.

Why it could happen:

Suggs knows people are wondering how much quality football he has left. It’s dangerous to write off great players too soon. Suggs would love to silence skeptics with a strong season, and if some of the young Ravens pass rushers develop, they won’t have to overwork Suggs. If he stays healthy once he comes off the PUP list, a player with Suggs’ talent and experience can still be a valuable defensive leader.

Worst-case scenario:

The Achilles injury limits what Suggs can do, and he is no longer an impact player.

Why it could happen:

It’s asking a lot of Suggs to remain a cog in the Ravens’ defense, after 106 ½ career sacks, and entering his 14th NFL season. Sooner or later, the NFL road will end for Suggs, just like it ended for his former great defensive teammates like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It will be interesting to hear Suggs’ thoughts on his career when he meets with the media Wednesday. If 2016 is not Suggs’ last ride, the end of the journey is getting closer.

RELATED: FIVE YOUNG PASS RUSHERS TO WATCH

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Five young pass rushers to watch, with Suggs and Dumervil on PUP

Five young pass rushers to watch, with Suggs and Dumervil on PUP

With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil starting training camp on the PUP list, the Ravens’ young pass rushers have an opportunity to show what they’ve got.

It’s not surprising, or overly alarming, that Suggs (Achilles) and Dumervil (foot) aren’t ready to participate in full-team practices, which begin Thursday. The priority for them is to be ready by Week 1.

But the reality is that Suggs is 33 years old and Dumervil is 32 – closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Remember when the Ravens loaded up on pass rushers in the draft? Training camp and the preseason will shed light on which young pass rushers are ready to contribute, and which ones are not.

RELATED: RAVENS NAME SIX PLAYERS TO THE PUP LIST

Here are five young Ravens pass rushers to watch closely during training camp and the preseason:

Kamalei Correa, rookie OLB

Correa might see more time at inside linebacker as a rookie, because the Ravens are looking for a starting inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. However, Correa’s skills as a pass-rushing outside linebacker at Boise St. convinced the Ravens he was worthy of being a second-round pick. If Correa is getting pressure on quarterbacks, the Ravens will find consistent snaps for him.

Matt Judon, rookie DE

He led the nation in sacks last season with 20 at Grand Valley State. As a fifth-round pick, Judon is making a major leap to the NFL and he is raw. But he also has size (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and athleticism. Judon could earn an immediate role as a situational pass rusher.

Bronson Kaufusi, rookie DE

He’s huge (6-foot-6, 285 pounds). He’s mature, already 25 years old after completing a two-year Mormon mission before attending BYU. And he’s athletic, good enough to spend one season on BYU’s basketball team before focusing on football. The Ravens’ third-round pick, Kaufusi could also earn a role as a situational pass rusher.

Victor Ochi, undrafted OLB

Ochi (6-foot-1, 245 pounds) has a body build like Dumervil – powerful with a low center of gravity. The Ravens have had at least one undrafted rookie make their roster for 12 straight years. Ochi could extend that streak. He was hoping to be the first player from Stony Brook ever drafted. Now he’s hoping to prove he should have been drafted.   

Za’Darius Smith, second-year OLB

Smith finished strong as a rookie. Of his 5 ½ sacks, 3 ½ came over the final three games. According to Smith, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants 10 sacks from Smith this season. If Smith becomes a double-digit sack artist, the Ravens’ pass rush will take a major leap.

MORE RAVENS: WILL SMITH'S BODY BETRAY HIM AGAIN?

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Suggs, Smith among six Ravens named to PUP list

Suggs, Smith among six Ravens named to PUP list

The Ravens announced six players placed on the physically unable to perform list Saturday - linebacker Terrell Suggs, wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, running back Trent Richardson, and cornerback Jumal Rolle.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot), tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), and cornerback Will Davis (knee) were not placed on PUP, indicating they were ready for the team’s first full-team training camp practice Thursday.

Any player on the PUP list can be activated and return to practice at any point prior to the regular season. Once a player is placed on the regular-season PUP list, he must sit out at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

RELATED: WILL SMITH'S BODY BETRAY HIM AGAIN?

Rolle (Achilles injury) is expected to miss the entire season. Here’s the breakdown on the other five PUP list players:

Suggs – He still has not fully recovered from his season-ending Achilles injury suffered in Week 1 last September. Suggs is scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday, where further details about his progress should be revealed.

Smith Sr. – Also recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in November. Smith said he would not care if he missed the entire preseason. His priority is to be ready by Week 1.

Perriman – He suffered a knee injury during minicamp which did not require season-ending surgery. However, Perriman has still not played a preseason or regular season game since being drafted in the first round in 2015. After two knee injuries in two years, the Ravens have every reason to be cautious with Perriman until they think he is ready to return.

Dumervil – He had offseason foot surgery after playing through pain last season. Dumervil missed mandatory minicamp, but did not sound concerned about being ready for Week 1.

Richardson – His lingering hamstring issue could ruin his bid for an NFL comeback. The Ravens are deep at running back, and Richardson needs to get healthy to have any chance to win a roster spot.

MORE RAVENS: FLACCO HAS LONG ODDS FOR MVP