There has been a lot of talk about Ray Lewis' future following a foot injury which has seemingly slowed him down in recently weeks. Even though he's not the same dominant force he was during his prime, the star linebacker has earned the right to decide when to call it quits.
Dan Kolko of MASN Sports passed along some of Lewis' thoughts on the subject of retirement:
"I guess only the people that write are the only people that can think about it," Lewis said. "I don't. I have a true obligation, first of all, to myself to play the game with nothing else on my mind. The second thing I have an obligation to are my teammates - just to give it everything I've got and don't listen to what nobody else says. Just do what you do.”
Lewis has always been a team-first player. It's impossible to find a more compassionate, intense person than him, especially right before kickoff when he's firing up the troops. That alone should allow him to have a spot on the Baltimore Ravens roster until he's at peace with a retirement decision.
Few players are more synonymous with one team than Lewis is with the Ravens. He's been the face of the franchise for more than a decade and continues to fight like there's no tomorrow on a weekly basis, which was why it was so surprising to see him miss time with a bothersome toe.
That no-quit attitude is the main reason he's gained the respect of Baltimore's front office and Raven fans. Everybody has watched him put his body on the line for the sole purpose of winning.
He's held in high regard due to that unmatched level of dedication. So when it comes to retirement he shouldn't be forced out the door unceremoniously just because he's lost a step in the middle of a still vaunted defensive unit.
If you ask his teammates they would be the first to tell you there's no other person they'd rather having captaining their ship than Lewis because if it were ever to start sinking he'd be the one to take the blame.
Lewis is not somebody who's going to spend every waking minute during the season worrying about things like retirement, lack of effectiveness or what the media thinks about his game. He's just going to keep trucking along until season's end, whenever that may be for the AFC's No. 2 seed Baltimore.
Maybe during the offseason he'll reflect on all of the questions about his diminishing ability, but in all likelihood those comments will only make him work harder to prove he's not over the hill.
There will be a time when Lewis will decide it's finally time to hang up the cleats. It won't be because of an aging body or analysts comments, but rather when he determines he's no longer helping his team win football games.
That's always been his top priority and if he truly believe he's actually hurting the Ravens' chances, he'll be the first to admit it and step aside. But he clearly thinks he still has more to give and, although there is a minor loss of potency, it's hard to argue with him.
Lewis has produced a legendary career and he should be the only person who gets to decide when the final chapter is written.