(Photograph: Reuters/ Joe Giza)
Ray Lewis, 37-year-old Baltimore Ravens Christian linebacker, has revealed that he feels that God is calling for him to retire from the NFL at the close of the postseason.
Lewis has been healing a torn right tricep since October but will return to the football field to face the Indianapolis Colts Sunday. However, after 17 seasons and 13 Pro Bowl appearances, Lewis said he told his team that he would bring his career to a close after the playoffs.
''God is calling. My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years," Lewis said in a press conference Wednesday. "I don't want to see them do that no more. I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it's my turn to give them something back.''
Lewis has two sons who play for a high school football team and one that will become a freshman at the University of Miami next year. The NFL player said he had to make a choice between continuing his career or missing out on watching his children begin their football experiences.
''It's either (that or) hold onto the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times we can be spending together,'' Lewis told the press Wednesday. ''Because I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship Daddy is going to be there. I can't miss that.''
According to Lewis, his children have had to sacrifice while he advanced his career. Now, he plans to give back to them.
Throughout the years, Lewis has made headlines for both his personal and professional life. Although Lewis was named the MVP after helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV for the 2000 season, that same year he was indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges.
Lewis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and managed to play in 228 career regular season games throughout his career while earning the respect of his teammates. When some of his fellow Ravens learned that he would be leaving them soon, they were saddened.
"It was sad. I'm not going to lie to you. It affected me because for the past 10 years of my career, I've been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays with the man," veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs told the media. "It definitely affected me a little bit. When he went up there [in the team meeting], I thought we were getting our, 'Let's go on a run to the playoffs,' speech. It was very sad...it's going to be one hard last ride and we need to make it one to remember."
For Lewis, leaving his teammates will be one of the hardest parts about ending his career.
''One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from my teammates,'' he said at the press conference Wednesday. ''The only thing I ever played for is to be right there. Does that part hurt? Absolutely. But the now I'm going to step into other chapters of my life."
Still, Lewis maintained that God was calling him away from the NFL.
"I knew I couldn't split my time anymore. When God calls, He calls. And He's calling. More importantly, He calls me to be a father," Lewis told the press Wednesday. "It's OK to be Daddy. Yes, this chapter is closing, but the chapter that's opening is overwhelming. That's what excites me the most.''