Ray Lewis announced Wednesday that he plans to retire at the end of the season, his 17th with the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis told his teammates that "this will be my last ride," according to the team's official Twitter feed.
Baltimore hosts Indianapolis on Sunday in the AFC wild-card round.
"I've ran my course. It's time for me to go create a different legacy," Lewis said, per Jeff Zriebec of the Baltimore Sun. "Wherever it ends it ends. But I didn't come back to be eliminated in the first round."
Said Terrell Suggs: "It's amazing and it's sad all at the same time."
Lewis added that he plans to play against the Colts, a game that will mark his first time back in the lineup since tearing his triceps in Week 6.
"Prior to the game, he will ignite and incite a riot so to speak," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Lewis' impact on the Baltimore crowd, "and there will be a ton of energy on that football team."
The Colts have been the NFL's darlings this year, with Andrew Luck leading his team to the playoffs despite Pagano's extended absence while fighting leukemia. Even with Pagano back on the sideline, the Colts may have a tough time matching the Ravens from an emotional standpoint on Sunday.
Even as Lewis' game has slowed, and his body has shown the effects of 17 seasons worth of wear and tear, he has remained the face of the Baltimore franchise and the heart and soul of its defense.
Lewis will go down as one of the greatest defenders in NFL history and, arguably, the best middle linebacker to ever play the game. Unofficially, he has more than 2,000 career tackles, plus he won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV title.
Along the way, Lewis developed a reputation as one of the most feared players in the league.
He's maintained that swagger throughout his remarkable run with the Ravens, and his mere presence on the field alone Sunday could spell trouble for the Colts.
The Ravens' defense has taken a step back overall this season -- it ranked just 20th against the run during the regular season. Those problems started before Lewis' injury, but they certainly continued with guys like Dannell Ellerbe and Albert McClellan struggling to pick up the slack.
The Colts are not a potent rushing team anyway, so it remains to be seen if they'll try to target a possibly rusty Lewis at all Sunday.
Baltimore could secure a second home playoff game, if it reaches the AFC championship against No. 6 Cincinnati. Otherwise, Sunday will mark Lewis' final home game, assuming he sticks to his word on retiring. And it may also be the last time Ed Reed plays in front of the Baltimore fans, as well -- he's set to be a free agent after the season and, at 34, has had retirement rumors following him for some time. Regardless of Reed's future, Sunday appears as if it will mark the end of an incredible, nearly unparalleled run for Lewis and the Ravens.