Ray Lewis: Most Underrated Player of His Generation?

Erik LandauCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2010

Ray Anthony Lewis, now 35, is slamming into the final years of his professional football playing career. He's won a Super Bowl, been an 11-time Pro Bowl Selection, and a 9-time All-Pro. He has even been a Super Bowl MVP, yet I believe Ray still isn't seen with the respect that should be bestowed upon a player of his playing greatness.

The NFL has always been a league that is defined by the quarterback. Whether it is the hot new kid Sam Bradford coming in, or the wily veteran Brett Favre. Now, I will tell you that Brett Favre happens to be one of my two favorite players All-Time (Along with Jerry Rice); but Brett gets way too much media coverage. Plain and simple, it is as stale and boring as Bingo. I know he covets it, but the lack of true appreciation on a national level for other players (Ray among them) is deplorable, at best.

Lewis has been overlooked at different times in his life only to recover and become stronger.

Somehow, 25 teams passed on him in the 1996 NFL Draft as he went 26th to the Baltimore Ravens. While the New York Jets were giving the damn ball and money to Keyshawn Johnson, the Ravens found a gem from the Miami Hurricanes.

All he did his rookie year was lead the team in tackles (110) and lead the NFL in tackles for loss (15). Not too shabby for a guy that was considered too small to play linebacker at the time.

John Madden showed his respect by making sure that Ray Lewis was on the cover of Madden 2005, but more people need to wake up. He has been the only defensive player on the cover of Madden.

It's a shame when Eli Manning is gaining more coverage than Lewis. The media, of course, prints or releases what content they want.  As a fan, we have limited choices on what is being delivered.

Does this lack of exposure stem back to his days when he was accused of murder? Maybe.

Once in a while, ESPN will do a cover piece on Ray, but that's rare. He just might be the greatest player of his generation, but the "Quarterback of the Defense", as I like to call him, still needs to be mentioned more often so people can truly appreciate him while he's around.

We make a stink about players when their careers are nearing the end and talk of  enjoying them for what they have accomplished while they are past their primes.  I, for one, believe we should really take in Ray while he's still near his prime level of play.

Enjoy him for his passion, energy, and pure ability to knock the snot out of someone.

Minus Patrick Willis, he is probably still right there for best linebacker in the game. I say this belief statistics aside. His ability to motivate teammates and consistently keep his D on the up is reason enough the Ravens can realistically fight for a title this season.

Like a Chris Paul or LeBron James in basketball, Lewis has the traits of one who makes his teammates better. Ravens fans, as much as anyone, have seen the importance of a good defense. Ed Reed, Peter Boulware, Chris McCallister, I can continue to read off names of guys who have played big in Baltimore the past decade that register in the mind of fans.

I can definitely think of players in his era who are overlooked: Isaac Bruce, Cortez Kennedy, and Derrick Brooks to name three. Like Brooks, he was a great linebacker who led his team to a Super Bowl title. Only, he is better and can still do things that make you say "Whoa!" at a similar age (Brooks is two years older).

This coming year we will hear more about Ben Roethlisberger's mishaps, whether or not Brett Favre is ready to retire again, and if Tom Brady can find a woman more beautiful than him.

Hopefully, they can ring in some features about the Peyton Manning of defense: Ray Lewis.