Ray Lewis: Dance a tribute to fans

  • ESPN.com news services | January 9, 2013

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Lewis dismissed Reggie Wayne's complaints about the linebacker's last dance after the Baltimore Ravens' victory over the Indianapolis Colts, insisting Tuesday that the display was not intended as a slap in the face to the losing team but as a tribute to the city he has grown to love.

Lewis 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.

-- Ray Lewis

After Lewis did his trademark dance on the field as the clock ran out on the Ravens' 24-9 win Sunday, Wayne called the celebration "disrespectful" in an interview with an Indianapolis radio station Monday.

"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 teammates encouraged me the most. It was about me honoring my team and honoring my city."

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

"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."

Lewis said he did the dance one last time because he was prompted to do so.

"My teammates were the ones who were encouraging me the most, saying, 'Go out and give it to us one more time knowing that this will be the last time that you do it in Ravens Stadium,'" he said.

Lewis and Wayne attended the University of Miami but played at different times there. Still, Lewis considers Wayne a friend.

"I don't take it a bad way," Lewis said. "Of course, after a loss, everybody's bitter. I've felt the same way many times. I love Reggie to death. It was never nothing personal between him and the Colts. It wasn't even about them."

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 26th 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.

"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."

Information from ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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