Ray Lewis' career as a Raven, year by year

January 02, 2013|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

When the Ravens made Ray Lewis their second-ever draft pick, they knew they were getting a highly productive player from the talent-rich University of Miami. What they could not have known is that Lewis would become arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history and one of the faces of his NFL generation. Through 17 seasons of controversy and excellence, Lewis' Baltimore ride has never been boring:

1996: On April 20, the Ravens select Ray Lewis with their second pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, 26th overall. Lewis, undersized at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, is considered something of a consolation prize after the Ravens miss on Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy (out of the league since 2004) at the top of the first round. But coach Ted Marchibroda says of Lewis: "When you watch him on film, he catches your eye, and you love to watch him play." … On July 13, Lewis signs five-year-deal with $1.3-million bonus in time to start training camp. … Aug. 3, Lewis records sack in Ravens' pre-season debut, Baltimore's first NFL home game in 13 years. … Sept. 1, Lewis starts regular-season opener at Memorial Stadium and records team-leading seven tackles along with first career interception in 19-14 win over Oakland Raiders. Lewis is named AFC Defensive Player of the Week. … Appears in 14 games (13 starts) and leads 4-12 team with 142 tackles. Named to USA Today's all-rookie team.

1997: Lewis enters second season as leader of defense, intent on establishing himself in NFL elite. "I'm still being myself, but it's different being in this position as the leader of the linebackers," he says before the start of camp. … July 29, Lewis flown to Maryland Shock Trauma with possible neck injury after training-camp collision, deemed to have no spinal-cord or nerve damage. … Sept. 14, Lewis records franchise-record and career-high 25 tackles in road win over New York Giants. … Lewis leads league with 210 tackles (163 solo), selected as first alternate to Pro Bowl and named second-team All-NFL by the Associated Press.

1998: At age 23, Lewis enters third season as one of most respected linebackers in league. "I don't just want another Pro Bowl," he says. "I want to be Defensive Player of the Year this year. Or how about Player of the Year? My concern is about being the best middle linebacker. When Ray Lewis is done playing, I want people to say that guy was the best." … Nov. 19, Lewis signs four-year, $26-million contract extension that makes him league's highest-paid middle linebacker. … Lewis misses almost three full games with dislocated left elbow but still leads Ravens in tackles with 154. … Selected to Pro Bowl.

1999: Another season, another Pro Bowl for Lewis, who is now routinely described by other players as the best linebacker in the NFL. Ravens win four of last five games, emerge as a potential up-and-comer under first-year coach Brian Billick. … Within days of taking job in January, Billick challenges Lewis to push beyond individual excellence, lead team to Super Bowl. … Lewis records 14 tackles, sack, 60-yard interception return in season-opening loss to St. Louis Rams. … Lewis starts all 16 games, finishes with league-high 198 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 interceptions. … Named first-team All-NFL by AP, Sporting News.

2000: In a stunning turn of events, Lewis charged with first-degree murder after two men were stabbed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub following a night of Super Bowl parties. Lewis ultimately pleads guilty to obstruction of justice, returns to author his signature on-field season as the leader of a historically great defense. … Feb. 1, Lewis appears in Atlanta courtroom, denied bail after being charged in deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. … Feb. 15, Lewis freed on $1 million bond, returns to Baltimore where he declares that he's innocent but "very sorry about the tragedy that happened in Atlanta." … June 5, after two weeks of trial, Lewis cleared of murder charges, pleads to misdemeanor obstruction charge, agrees to testify against two former co-defendants. …Owner Art Modell says he feels vindication and relief for Lewis, adding that he, "never had any qualms about his innocence." … "This is done," Lewis says in first public remarks after trial. "This is a chapter that needs to be closed." … Sept. 3 Ravens shut out Pittsburgh Steelers in Lewis' return to field. … Facing boos at most road games, Lewis records 187 tackles for defense that sets 16-game record for fewest points allowed. … Named NFL Defensive MVP, first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Sporting News.

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