Ranking the Greatest Moments of Ray Lewis' Hall of Fame Career

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 2, 2013

Ranking the Greatest Moments of Ray Lewis' Hall of Fame Career

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    As the Baltimore Ravens prepare for their Wild Card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. Sunday, the team received some bad (albeit hardly unexpected) news on Wednesday.

    Linebacker Ray Lewis, who has been the heart and soul of the Ravens defense for well over a decade, will apparently call it a career after this season, as the 17-year veteran told coaches and teammates that this year will be "his last ride," according to the Ravens' Twitter feed.

    In a career as storied as Lewis' there are innumerable moments that can be singled out as high points, but here's a look at a handful of the best seasons of a career that will no doubt one day land Lewis in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

An Incredible Run

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    One glance at Ray Lewis' career stats and it's not hard to see why he's a virtual lock first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Over his 17 seasons in the NFL Lewis has amassed over 2,000 total tackles, 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions, 19 forced fumbles, and 20 fumble recoveries. Lewis' 13 Pro Bowls, 227 games started and 17 seasons played are all NFL records for an inside linebacker.

    Those figures only scratch the surface of how great a player he truly was. Let's take a deeper look at some of his finest seasons.

2010: Ray Lewis Makes More History

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    The Hall of Fame credentials of Ray Lewis were already pretty much set by 2010 but, in Lewis' 15th NFL season, he made a bit of history by adding giving us yet another reason to justify his induction into Canton on his resume.

    In the midst of a season that would see Lewis named to the Pro Bowl for the twelfth time after tallying over 100 solo tackles, two sacks and two interceptions, Lewis made some NFL history. On November 21, Lewis became only the second player in league history to amass over 30 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career.

2006: Lewis Comes Back Strong

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    Injury limited Ray Lewis to six games in 2005, but the following season, Lewis was back on the field again wreaking havoc.

    Despite missing two games, Lewis amassed 103 tackles and a career-high five sacks, leading a Ravens' defense that led the NFL in 14 categories, including yards allowed, points allowed and interceptions.

    Lewis was named to his eighth Pro Bowl that season, but chose not to attend, ceding his spot on the roster to teammate Bart Scott.

1996: Welcome to the NFL

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    Ray Lewis was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 26th pick in the 1996 NFL draft out of Miami and it didn't take long at all for him to make an impact as a professional.

    Lewis played in 14 games as a rookie, leading the team with 115 tackles, pacing the National Football League with 15 tackles for loss and picking up All-Rookie honors from USA Today.

    That was only the beginning.

1999: Ray Lewis Continues His Tear

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    After so many years of his Lewis terrorizing NFL offenses, we may have lost track of how dominant was Lewis was early in his career.

    Over his first four NFL seasons, Lewis averaged over 145 total tackles put an exclamation point on his first "term in office" by racking up a league-leading 168 tackles and earning his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod in 1999.

2008: Lewis Makes His 10th Trip to Honolulu

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    By the 2008 season, Lewis was already well-established as one of the NFL's best linebackers, but that didn't mean that there weren't still some new accolades for him to add to his resume.

    Lewis helped lead the Ravens to within a game of the Super Bowl that year and, on the heels of his 117 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions, Lewis earned the 10th Pro Bowl nod of his career.

2011: Rarefied Air for Ray-Ray

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    By the 2011 season, Ray Lewis' career was on the decline, at least in terms of production, but that hardly meant that there wasn't any gas left in the tank.

    The Ravens came within a loss to the undefeated New England Patriots of advancing to Super Bowl XLVI, a squad buoyed in large part by Lewis' 95 tackles, two sacks and an interception in 12 games.

    Lewis also made NFL history that season, as in October, he became the first player in NFL history to accrue 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in a career.

1997: Lewis Serves Notice to the NFL

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    It seems ludicrous now, but back in 1996 Ray Lewis was the fourth linebacker chosen in the NFL draft, behind the likes of such household names as Kevin Hardy, Reggie Brown and John Mobley.

    It didn't take long for Lewis to prove to the teams that passed on him that they had erred in their selection.

    In just his second season, Lewis absolutely exploded onto the NFL scene, racking up an NFL-best 184 tackles, chipping in four sacks, an interception and a forced fumble, good enough to earn him the first of would be a boatload of trips to Hawaii.

2003: Ray Lewis Wins Defensive Player of the Year...Again

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    Despite a shoulder injury that limited him to six games in 2002, Ray Lewis was ready to rock in 2003. He may have needed to buy a new house, just so he could get a bigger mantle to display all the awards he had accumulated.

    After posting a career-high 120 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks, and an eye-popping six interceptions, Lewis was named to his sixth Pro Bowl, awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for the second time and earned any number of other honors, including the Pro Football Weekly, PFWA and Football Digest Defensive MVP awards.

2000: Lewis Reaches the Promised Land

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    In a career as fantastic as the one that Ray Lewis has enjoyed, it can be difficult to pinpoint one season that stands above the rest, but in Lewis' case, it's hard not to view the 2000 Super Bowl campaign as his best.

    During that season, Lewis led a Ravens defense that set NFL records for fewest points and rushing yards allowed and, after notching 138 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions, Lewis was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the first time.

    It was the 2001 playoffs where this season truly stands out however, as Lewis added 31 tackles and two interceptions in the postseason en route to a victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, where Lewis, who broke up four Kerry Collins' passes on the day, was named the game's MVP.