Baltimore Ravens Face of the Franchise: Who Rules in Baltimore?
In the NFL for someone to be called the face of a franchise, he has to be a combination of several things—he has to play very well, maybe even be the best player at his position in the entire league, and he must be a leader who is respected by his team and his peers in the NFL.
When it comes to the Baltimore Ravens, their reputation as a defensive powerhouse impacts the search for a franchise player. When people think about the Ravens, it's so easy to picture Ray Lewis winning the Super Bowl MVP or Ed Reed taking an interception back to the house.
The franchise has been so defined by defense for so long that it's not possible to look at them without seeing the defensive superstars.
Yet, it could also be argued that a change is being made as several new players on the offensive side of the ball could make claims to be the face of the franchise. Though the defense remains the team's strength, the offense pulls its weight more so than at any other previous time.
So who is the face of the Ravens franchise?
Only a few players can even be considered for this honored position. Here are the players that I think have arguments for being the face of the franchise.
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It's tempting to pick the other future hall-of-famer as the Ravens face of the franchise, but there's definitely a good case as to why Ed Reed could potentially have this title.
Right now there is no active NFL player that has more interception yardage or more interceptions. Reed just has the ability to create plays out of anything and is in many ways the pure definition of the word ball hawk. Every time he has the ball, he is a threat to score, as demonstrated by his 13 total touchdowns.
Reed also provides solid leadership on the defensive side of the ball, particularly to the defensive backs. He may not have the loudness of Terrell Suggs or the intensity of Ray Lewis, but he does lead and mostly does a good job leading his teammates.
As one of the greatest safeties of all-time, Reed could definitely be considered a face of the franchise, although his candidacy is hurt by the amount of superstar defenders on the Ravens roster.
It's not a bad problem for any player to have. Especially a thoughtful and humble player like Reed who seems pretty content to avoid the spotlight.
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Terrell Suggs might actually be the best player that the Ravens have right now. He had a career season in 2011 with 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions.
He also won the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award, becoming the only Raven besides Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to win the award.
Suggs has played the entirety of his career with these two defensive superstars. With both of them in the twilight phases of their career, it seems that a transition is happening, and Suggs might be the guy that could take over when they retire.
Already Suggs is probably the most outspoken Raven in the media, regularly commenting to reporters after games and getting in heated debates with First Take's Skip Bayless.
Through his media exposure, the Ball So Hard University alumnus has shown himself to be intelligent as well as a really funny guy.
His leadership proved invaluable during this past season when the Ravens went 4-0 in games that Lewis didn't play in. But it seems safe to say that in the future, Suggs will be the face of the franchise.
He's been a Raven since he was 20 years old and is halfway through a six year deal with the team. It's early, but considering his excellent health, Suggs could be a starting Raven nearly as long as Lewis has been.
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In today's pass happy NFL, it's sort of a given that the quarterback will be considered the face of the franchise. That's why nearly every team with an elite quarterback considers him to be the unquestioned face of the franchise.
And many times those teams that don't have elite quarterbacks are often among the worst teams in the NFL.
The Ravens are a different team in that their offense is not as pass heavy as the typical NFL team. They have the elite defense and the strong running game as major reasons why this team was in the AFC Championship last year.
Yet, with all the defensive stars on the team, quarterback Joe Flacco may be the player that is best suited towards becoming the face of their franchise.
Through four years of play, Flacco has the most wins ever by a quarterback—not including his five postseason victories. Even though his stats don't rank among the NFL's best quarterbacks, Flacco has shown a tendency to stay cool and perform well in clutch situations.
With Flacco and his agent still in contract talks with the Ravens, it seems safe to say that Flacco will be paid to be the quarterback in Baltimore for many more years.
If he stays here long enough, Flacco should have the opportunity to seize the face of the franchise role.
However, with his personality and the frequent media criticism, it seems that Flacco will have to improve as a quarterback before he can expect to be the team's leader.
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To many people, this one seems like a no-brainer. Ray Lewis was drafted in the first round of the 1996 draft, which was the first year of the Ravens existence as a franchise.
Now 16 years later, he's still here and playing at a ridiculously high level.
The fact that Lewis is still starting and playing like one of the best linebackers in the league after 16 seasons and at 36 years old is completely unprecedented. Lewis gives lots of credit to his offseason workout regiment as well as his affection for the game.
It's safe to say that almost from the day he was drafted, Lewis has taken on the role of face of the franchise. The emergence of the Ravens elite defense in 2000 and their Super Bowl victory served to make Lewis one of the most well-known and feared defenders in the NFL.
Although no Ravens fan wants to think about retirement, it could be soon for Lewis, and when it happens, he will become a hall-of-famer as soon as he is eligible.
And the Face of the Franchise Is...
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For as long as he plays here, Ray Lewis is and forever will be the face of the Ravens franchise.
It's just too difficult to pick against the guy who literally started Ravens defense and has been around to lead it during the entire existence of the franchise.
Though it's not just the defense. Lewis' leadership is undisputed by the whole team, and he is even greatly respected by opposing players. The man is a straight up warrior too that has perhaps the greatest pre-game entry in all of football.
As cliche as it sounds, he gives 100 percent of what he has every time he's on the field and doesn't hold anything back.
Even when he does retire, it's going to be hard to fully realize what Lewis has done for this franchise. He has proven his worth over the years and is quite possibly the most famous athlete that the city of Baltimore has ever had.
When the years have gone by and he does retire, Ravens fans will have the honor of saying they got to watch one of the greatest linebackers of all time play.