Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis became a hot topic of discussion after the NFL Network recently announced that he was voted among the NFL’s top 10 current players, as voted by the players themselves. No big surprise, right? Or is it? While some believe it’s a no-brainer to pick a guaranteed Hall of Famer like Lewis among the top 10, others wouldn’t rank a veteran player past his prime so highly. AFRO sports writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley explore both sides.

Riley: Let me make this simple and clear: Ray Lewis is NOT in the top 10, and he’s unrightfully holding a rank that is more deserving of Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, who in my opinion is the best quarterback in the league (Rodgers was voted No. 11 overall by the players). As for Ray, he’s not even in the top-two of his own position. I’d take the Carolina Panthers’ Jon Beason (ranked No. 95) or the San Francisco 49ers’ Patrick Willis (ranked No. 23) before Lewis, a 36-year-old, 15-season veteran on his last legs.

Green: I can’t argue against the players on this one; they’re the ones who actually compete against him on Sundays, so they would know better than I would. The NFL can be a pretty overwhelming, and sometimes downright cruel business, yet since Lewis entered the league in 1996 he’s always appeared in full control—physically, mentally and even spiritually and emotionally. Lewis will go down as perhaps one of the top 10 leaders in NFL history, so when you add that with the fact that he still hits as hard as he did 15 years ago, why not put him on the top 10 active list? He earned it!

Riley: The players made the list, but since when have players not been biased? I can easily think of 10 NFL players, both offense and defense, that are ahead of Ray Lewis. C’mon, now. Lewis does a good job of readying his men, but offensive coordinators aren’t game-planning around him anymore. This isn’t 2001! When I think of impact players in the league, I think of Rodgers, Willis, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, Darrell Revis of the New York Jets, Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers and so on. I could probably run off 10 or 15 more players before I get to Lewis. Ray is a great leader, but you can lead from the sidelines. We’re talking about players making plays, and its too many others who produce more than Ray does at this point of his career.

Green: Ray’s leadership traits serve a major role in what type of player he is, though. Coaches do the leading from the sidelines, but you always need a real leader on the field too, and no one offers better services in that department than Lewis. You have to consider the full magnitude of Ray’s presence on the field; he orchestrates the entire Ravens’ defensive unit, whether calling set plays in the huddle or reading the offensive alignment and making pre-snap adjustments so that his teammates are in position to make plays. All of those skills that you’re underestimating are what determines the outcome of most defensive plays made by Baltimore’s defense, one of the stingiest defensive units in the league.

Lewis may not be as fast as he was 10 years ago, but that’s the only skill that has diminished. He still hits as hard as anyone in the NFL; he’s still perhaps the most passion-driven player suited up on Sundays, and again, he’s one of the wisest field leaders still left in the sport. No wonder the players respect him so much.

Bonus Topic:

NFL veteran receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss will be free agents heading into this coming season if the NFL lockout ends in time. Both players, considered future Hall of Famers, may have a lot of talent left to contribute, should they be signed by the right team. But they both have reputations of being disruptive forces in the team locker room. So, are they even worth being signed?

Green: I’m not so sure about T.O., but I’d sign Moss to my team in a heartbeat. He still has some of the best hands ever, he still has world-class speed, making him the best vertical threat in the NFL, and unlike Owens, he doesn’t need several months of rest and rehab to recover from a recent surgery.

Riley: I’d take T.O. Moss doesn’t want to play anymore—he proved that with his lack of presence once he was traded to both the Vikings and Titans last season. We all know Owens still wants to play, even if it’s just for the spotlight. T.O. is always in top shape, and he’s successfully recovered from surgeries before, so he’ll recover, again, and join some desperate team’s ball club sooner than later.

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk