OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Lewis spent 17 seasons instilling fear in his opponents while serving as an inspirational leader for the Ravens. Now he's eager to be a full-time dad.
The middle linebacker announced Wednesday that he will retire after this season.
Lewis, 37, tore his right triceps Oct. 14 but intends to return Sunday against the Colts.
"Everything that starts has an end," he said.
Lewis wants to spend more time with his two sons. While rehabbing, he watched them play at Lake Mary Prep, north of Orlando. Next season, Ray Lewis III plays his freshman season at Miami, where the elder Lewis starred.
"God is calling," said Lewis, a Bartow native who played his high school ball at Lakeland Kathleen. "My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years. I don't want to see them do that no more. I've done what I wanted to do in this business.
"I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship, Daddy is going to be there. I can't miss that."
Lewis, a seven-time All-Pro, was named defensive player of the year in 2000, the same season he was voted Super Bowl MVP after the Ravens' 34-7 rout of the Giants in Tampa. He also was defensive player of the year in 2003 and is the only player with at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.
"I never played the game for individual stats," he said. "I only played the game to make my team a better team."
Drafted 26th overall in 1996 (the first season after the team moved from Cleveland), Lewis became a beloved figure in Baltimore. He remained that way even after his reported involvement in two homicides in 2000. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and testified against two co-defendants. Within a year, Lewis led the Ravens to their only title.
Hundreds of games later, he's ready to call it a career.
"It was sad," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the announcement. "For the past 10 years … I've been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays. It's going to one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember."
Lewis called his rehab from the torn triceps "bittersweet." After spending Monday through Thursday working to return, he hopped on a plane to Florida to be with his boys.
"Not having a father myself, that damaged me a lot," Lewis said. "I didn't want my kids to relive that. One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from my teammates. But now I'm going to step into other chapters of my life.
"When God calls, he calls. And he's calling. More importantly, he calls me to be a father. It's okay to be Daddy. Yes, this chapter is closing, but the chapter that's opening is overwhelming. That's what excites me the most."