I still watch Ray Lewis’ Madden intro in its entirety every time I settle deep into my well manicured couch groove. I have to, because if I don’t he’ll hurt me.

Now, Lewis is about to begin living loooonnnnnnggggggg after his records have fallen.

Era. Over.

Lewis will return from a triceps tear to play in the Ravens’ wild card weekend game against the Colts, and if they lose he’ll fade off into the football afterlife, retiring after 17 seasons. He was a Pro Bowler in 13 of those years, and for much of his career prior to a year ago he was indestructible, going three straight seasons without missing a game. In total he’s logged eight 16-game seasons.

Let’s get this over with, since there’s no discussion: Ray Lewis is a hall of famer.

I realize the tackles stat is flawed, but any holes in a single metric can be ignored when one player dominates it so thoroughly. The simple fact is that as a middle linebacker, crushing dudes and stuffing the run was a core element of Lewis’ job description. Excluding the post-season, he currently has 1,573 tackles, many of which came over his eight +100 tackle seasons. He also has the most interception return yards of any middle linebacker ever (503) while being selected as an All Pro seven times, being named a Super Bowl MVP in 2001, and the defensive player of the year in 2000 and 2003.

Also, this is sort of incredible…

There’s a good chance Ed Reed will retire too, meaning the window of opportunity for a Ravens championship could close over the next few weeks. Prepare for both their roster — and specifically, the core of the defense — to change drastically along with the landscape of the AFC North.

In his announcement Lewis said that his career has run its course, and it’s time for him to “create a different legacy”. That will surely start with a broadcasting position somewhere next fall, because America’s desire to hear Ray Lewis talk must be satiated. The difference between Lewis and, say, Shannon Sharpe is that the latter mouth just yells, and often incoherently. Lewis may be intense, but there’s a calculated purpose to his words. It remains to be seen how that will translate in the formulaic, soul-sucking environment of NFL Sunday panels, but here’s to optimism.

For now, let’s enjoy the last game(s?) of Lewis’ career, and his on-field aura that exudes hurt. Then once that ends, if a career talking on camera isn’t to his liking, surely every high school and college or university across the continent has an opening for a motivational speaker.

I’M PISSED OFF FOR GREATNESS raaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh