The Baltimore Ravens placed linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk on the retirement list Thursday, putting in motion the end of two long careers that culminated in a Super Bowl XLVII championship.
For Lewis, many feared that perhaps his career ended in the middle of the season when a torn triceps muscle put him on Injured Reserve after only six games. Luckily for Lewis, the NFL instituted a new rule that allowed one special exemption per player, per team that would allow a recall of a player from the IR later in the year. Lewis was given that exemption and was able to return for the playoffs. That's when Baltimore beat the Colts, and then upset the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers on the way to winning their second championship since moving to Baltimore.
In his 17-year career, Lewis made the Pro Bowl 13 times, the AP first-team All-Pro squad seven times, was twice the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and won two championships. Many consider him to be the greatest linebacker of all-time, if not the greatest defensive player that ever played in the pros. During the 2012 season, Lewis announced that he would retire when the Ravens season was done, the only surprise for many was that they weren't done until they had won the Super Bowl.
The career of Matt Birk is nearly as long.
The Harvard graduate was a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings back in 1998, and he became a six-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro center in 14 seasons with the Vikings and Ravens. He moved to Baltimore in 2009 and spent the last four years of his career with the Ravens. He was the Minnesota Vikings' "Man of the Year" for six years running, from 2002-2007
Both careers come to an end on the highest of imaginable notes.
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