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Lewis grew to love Baltimore, and vice versa

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Lewis grew to love Baltimore, and vice versa

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) When Ray Lewis was selected in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft, he didn't even know the nickname of the team that drafted him.

The Cleveland Browns had just moved to Baltimore, and general manger Ozzie Newsome chose Lewis with the 26st overall pick after taking tackle Jonathan Ogden at No. 4.

``I picked up the phone,'' Lewis recalled, ``and the first thing I said to him was, `Ozzie, what's our team name going to be? Who are we?'''

Lewis quickly became the face of the Baltimore Ravens, and the stellar middle linebacker will remain a beloved figure in Charm City long after he pulls off his No. 52 jersey for the final time.

``When you think about the Baltimore Ravens, the first name you mention is Ray Lewis,'' Baltimore running back Ray Rice said Tuesday. ``That's just what it is, and it's something that will never be taken away from him.''

The 37-year-old Lewis will retire after the Ravens finish their current playoff run, which continues when Baltimore (11-6) plays at Denver (13-3) on Saturday.

Lewis was elected to 13 Pro Bowls, was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was Super Bowl MVP after the 2000 season. But nothing makes him prouder than saying that he played 17 seasons, all with Baltimore.

``Out of everything that's been going on, that's probably the biggest thing that has me the most excited, that I've been able to stay in one place for so long,'' Lewis said. ``You watch so many players go in and out, shuffle from team to team.

``For me to be here, I was a kid when I came here and didn't have a clue what was going on. I grew with this city and this city grew with me. I will die a Raven. That's an awesome, awesome feeling. There's no greater achievement for me, myself, to say I've always been connected to one thing my entire life.''

John Unitas left Baltimore for San Diego, Joe Namath spent time with the Los Angeles Rams, Joe Montana bounced from San Francisco for Kansas City. The list goes on.

``Look at the guy we're going up against this week, Peyton Manning,'' Ravens guard Bobbie Williams said. ``He could probably go back to Indianapolis and be mayor if he wanted to, but he couldn't finish his career in one place.''

Lewis did. And although Lewis hasn't announced plans to run for office in Baltimore, Williams is certain his teammate could make some noise on election day.

``He's very political, well-spoken, very articulate,'' Williams said. ``He would put up some good numbers at the polls.''

Baltimore loves Lewis, and he loves Charm City right back. After Lewis did his trademark dance on the field as the clock ran out on the Ravens' 24-9 win over Indianapolis last Sunday, Colts receiver Reggie Wayne called the celebration ``disrespectful.''

Lewis dismissed the charge Tuesday, insisting that the display was not intended as a slap in the face to the losing team.

``When he was in Pop Warner playing football, I was in Baltimore,'' Lewis said. ``The game was over. I didn't go toward their sideline and make a big issue of it because I've never been that type of player. (It was) a salute to my city, knowing that people love to see that. And not just people. My teammate encouraged me the most. It was about me, honoring my team and honoring my city.''

Williams started his 13-year career in Philadelphia, then toiled for eight years in Cincinnati before coming to Baltimore last June. Lewis started in Baltimore and ended in Baltimore. Period.

``It's awesome,'' Williams said. ``Even some of the greats that have played this game, at the end of their career they bounced around trying to get one more year in. But for one guy to play here his entire career, and to be relevant even to the end, it's unheard of.''

Lewis has been playing for Baltimore as long as the Ravens have been the Ravens. No other player in the world can make that claim.

``It's a great thing, the relationship between Baltimore and Ray,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``It's very unique. I don't think there can ever be another situation like this. Jonathan Ogden was a similar situation, obviously. You've got two guys who came in when the organization was just beginning. As Ray said, before there were team colors, before there was a mascot, there was Ray and Jonathan Ogden. ... It's just a very special thing.''

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Former Patriot: Joe Flacco 'not a guy that strikes fear in your heart'

Former Patriot: Joe Flacco 'not a guy that strikes fear in your heart'

Some say Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. Some say he isn't.

Former Patriots center Dan Koppen clearly sides with the second option.

In a segment on CSN New England's "Sports Tonight," Koppen said he doesn't think Flacco is much of a threat throwing the ball. 

He was asked if Flacco was going to be a reason the Ravens win or a reason they lose to the Patriots. 

"Well, if you look at his last performance, he could be a reason that they win, but over the course of his career, he's not a guy that strikes fear in your heart," Koppen said.

Koppen also said Flacco wouldn't have been this successful without his teammates' help.

"Some Patriots fans have seen this team come in and win, but I believe it's more about the players around him than Joe Flacco himself. ... He's not a guy that elevates the players around him. He needs a good running game, he needs a line, he needs those receivers, and he's also had a strong defense his whole career."

The only way to tell if this is a valid criticism would be to take all the players around Joe Flacco and replace them with average players, and that isn't going to happen. 

For now, the Ravens are winning and in first place in the AFC North, and fans should enjoy that.

MORE: Flacco named FedEx Air Player of the Week

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Joe Flacco named Week 13 FedEx Air Player of the Week by NFL

Joe Flacco named Week 13 FedEx Air Player of the Week by NFL

With a dominating performance over the Miami Dolphins defense in Week 13, Joe Flacco was named the FedEx Air Player of the Week by the NFL. 

In the Ravens 38-6 victory, the quarterback threw for 381 yards with four touchdowns, both season-highs. He completed 36 of his 47 passes and finished with a passer rating of 119.2.

This was Flacco's first time selected as the Air Player of the Week this season. Drew Brees (three time winner) is the only quarterback to receive the award more than once.

As the winner of the award, FedEx will make a $2,000 donation to the USO in Flacco's name through FedEx Cares. 

On the year, the Raven's play caller has thrown for over 3,258 yards with a 64.6 percent completion rate. He has found the endzone 15 times but also has thrown 11 interceptions.

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