Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis Thriving as a Full-Time Motivator

Mike Dowling@MikeLeeDowlingContributor IIINovember 29, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 24:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens and teammate Cory Redding #93 share a laugh on the sidelines during the second half of the Ravens 16-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Every member of the Ravens' organization, from the front office to the coaching staff and players, can't wait for Ray Lewis to get back on the field.

The veteran linebacker is having yet another Pro Bowl season, seemingly validating his own belief that he's truly getting better with age.

The team's been forced to roll with Brendan Ayanbadejo at linebacker in his absence, who has been a force on special teams but doesn't have the natural instincts that Lewis brings to the linebacker position.

Still, it's hard to argue the defense has suffered much without Lewis on the field.

The team's managed to not just contain, but completely stifle Cincinnati's Cedric Benson and San Francisco's Frank Gore, two of the league's better running backs, without Lewis' intimidating presence.

Now the team gets the formidable but hobbled Peyton Hillis, followed by whatever mediocre runners Indianapolis and San Diego can throw at them. Not nearly as scary as the backs they've already shut down without their leader.

Additionally, Lewis has been able to fully devote his attention to acting as one of the more inspirational motivators to ever play the game now that he doesn't have to actually go out and fight the battle himself.

Pregame, the only difference in Lewis' routine has been the absence of his pads, the presence of sweats and an impossibly cool-looking skull cap. He still fires up the linebackers all through warm-ups, rallying the entire team with his fiery pregame speech before heading back to the locker room.

But now, Lewis has played that role throughout the games.

He's planned strategies with Chuck Pagano, fired up backups and special teamers and offered tactical advice to both the offensive and defensive starters during breaks in the action.

He did all this while displaying his trademark enthusiasm for the on-field action as he cheers on the team.

He's like a coach, except far more powerful. He doesn't have to limit himself to strictly tactical advice, instead playing dual roles as coach and motivator depending on the situation.

Lewis certainly hates being on the sidelines, and will have no qualms about returning to game action when he's ready. But as long as the Ravens aren't facing elite offenses, they might be content to let Lewis get back to 100 percent before having him switch from being a motivator back to being a player-motivator.

They can have someone to keep this historically inconsistent team focused down the stretch, then have a healthy Lewis looking to make up for lost time in the playoffs.

That seems like a win-win.