There’s no telling how effective Ray Lewis will be today against the Indianapolis Colts after missing 12 weeks with a torn right triceps.
Fortunately, for the Ravens, he’s already provided an emotional lift.
With his announcement that he will step into retirement after Baltimore completes its 2013 playoff run, Lewis gave the slumping Ravens a boost heading into their wild-card game.
“Just having him back on the field is an inspiration,” Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
There are plenty of engaging story lines for this game, which pits Baltimore’s current NFL team against the one that left the city in a caravan of moving vans during a March 1984 snowstorm. The matchup features the return of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who served as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator last year and is back on the sideline after being treated for leukemia.
What’s more, Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was head coach at Indianapolis for three seasons, culminating his up-and-down run with last year’s 2-14 debacle. There’s also the Ravens’ playoff experience — this is their fifth straight trip under coach John Harbaugh — against a young Colts team that has 28 players making their postseason debut.
But nothing is more noteworthy than the pending retirement of the 37-year-old Lewis, who has been Baltimore’s starting middle linebacker for 17 years, or as long as the Ravens have been the Ravens.
The Colts will be sending top draft pick Andrew Luck up against Lewis and a defense that has a reputation for bullying rookie quarterbacks. Luck put up some impressive numbers in his first 16 NFL games, throwing for 300 yards on six occasions and running for five scores. But this will be his first foray in a win-or-go-home format.
“It’s uncharted territory for me,” Luck acknowledged. “It definitely has a different feel than a bowl game, because this isn’t what any of the teams want as an end prize, to win the first one.”