The Baltimore Ravens have experienced some great players, but none stand above Ray Lewis. The linebacker led the team to two Super Bowl wins and will likely go down as the single greatest Raven ever. The consummate professional, Lewis always played hard-nosed football at a higher level than most linebackers. But this effectiveness didn’t come without sacrifice.
During his career, Lewis suffered plenty of injuries that hampered his ability to contribute. He often played through the pain to be the great player he was. Lewis recently spoke about the most painful injury he’s ever had. The fact that it didn’t keep him off the field for long is a testament to his toughness.
Ray Lewis’s legendary NFL career
The Ravens drafted Lewis with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He’d played collegiately for the University of Miami. But it didn’t take long for him to make a splash at the pro level. Here’s what Lewis accomplished during his illustrious career:
- 41.5 sacks
- 228 games played
- 1,568 solo tackles
- Two-time (2000, 2003) AP Defensive Player of the Year
- 13-time Pro Bowl selection
- Seven-time All-Pro selection
- Two-time world champion
The zenith of Lewis’s career involved the 2000 season. Along with earning Defensive Player of the Year honors, he led the Ravens to a dominant victory in the Super Bowl over the New York Giants. Lewis received the Most Valuable Player Award for that game, too.
To the surprise of no one, Lewis was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, getting enshrined in Canton, Ohio, in 2018.
His incredible ability to play through pain
One of the hallmarks of Lewis’s career was his toughness. At many points throughout his storied NFL tenure, he fought through intense pain to make it on the field despite his ailments. One example is from his final season.
While Lewis was integral to the 2000-01 Super Bowl victory for Baltimore, he also played an important role on the 2012-13 championship team. He may not have had the ability he had earlier in his career, but Lewis was still a key contributor to the Ravens’ defense.
In October 2012, Lewis thought his season was over when he tore his triceps. But he battled back to make it on the field for the Super Bowl. According to Lewis, he tore his triceps again the night before the Super Bowl, but he played anyway: “I couldn’t tell nobody. I couldn’t go to the doctors. I couldn’t go to my teammates … What was I going to tell them? That I couldn’t play?”
Lewis had to tie a string around his arm then tie that to the ceiling just to get to sleep the night before the big game. It didn’t hurt his output; he had seven tackles in the Ravens’ win.
The most painful injury Ray Lewis ever had
Lewis said the most painful injury he suffered was a hamstring injury. Playing in a game against the Chicago Bears, the linebacker tore his hamstring “from the bone.” He described the pain as being “something that you know immediately. It’s one of the loudest sounds you ever heard.”
Although he eventually left the game, Lewis continued playing. He said it was the most pain he ever felt on a football field. The fact that it didn’t immediately rule him out shows what a tough customer Lewis truly was.