Day eight of our “Franchise 4” series features the 2000 and 2012 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the third AFC North team that we’ve featured so far in the series. Here are four of the most recognizable/accomplished figures in Baltimore’s short franchise history after moving out of Cleveland and into B-More in ’96:
Jamal Lewis, Running Back (2000-2006)
While the defensive unit shut down every opponent on the way to a Super Bowl championship in 2000, it was rookie running back Jamal Lewis, fifth overall pick out of Tennessee, that allowed the offense (led by underachieving QBs Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer) to score enough points to assist the defense. The rookie runner was a monster at 5’11″/240 pounds, and bowled over opposing defenders to the tune of 1,364 yards and six touchdowns that season. A few years later, in 2003, Lewis ran for 2,066 yards and is still one of just seven RBs in history to break the 2,000-yard barrier. Overall in his six seasons in Baltimore and three in Cleveland, Lewis retired with 10,607 yards and 58 touchdowns on the ground.
Ray Lewis, Linebacker (1996-2012)
Putting aside the off-field trouble he faced early on in his professional football career, and Lewis is one of the biggest figures in Baltimore sports history––right up there with some of the legendary Baltimore Orioles’ greats such as Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, etc. Lewis played middle linebacker in Baltimore for 17 years after being selected 26th overall in the 1996 NFL Draft. Lewis is the NFL’s record-holder for most Pro Bowls (13) and All-Pro selections (10) by a middle/inside linebacker, and is a two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Super Bowl champion. Accolades and stats aside, Lewis was the heart and soul––and motivator––of Brian Billick and John Harbaugh’s respective defensive units for nearly two decades. By far the most recognizable name and face in Baltimore Ravens’ history.
Jonathan Ogden, Offensive Tackle (1996-2007)
It’s true, what they say, about the importance of a left tackle. Jonathan Ogden is proof of that. The fourth overall pick in the ’96 draft spent his entire 12-year career holding down the fort at left tackle and was just recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. The 6’9″/340-pound lineman was massive, but was quick off the ball. And pretty durable too, I guess you could say. He started 176 games over his career and made Pro Bowl appearances in 11 of his 12 seasons donning the black and purple.
Ed Reed, Free Safety (2002-2012)
Reed just officially announced his retirement earlier this off-season, and he’ll go down as the franchise’s best defensive back. The nine-time Pro Bowl FS retires from the game with 64 career interceptions, and he led the league in INTs on three different occasions. Not only that, but he is also tied for the most career postseason INTs, with nine. But perhaps it was what he did once the ball was in his hands that was the most impressive. He was the first player in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt and fumble recovery for a touchdown. Overall in his career, the ball-hawking Reed has eight interception touchdowns (includes one in postseason), two fumble return touchdowns, three blocked punt return touchdowns and a punt return touchdown. Yeah, I guess you could say Reed had a few moves when the ball was in his hands.
There are a handful of other guys who could be argued for these four spots. In fact, you could make a strong case for Brian Billick, John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Terrell Suggs, Peter Boulware, Haloti Ngata, Chris McAlister, Matt Stover, etc.. Do you agree with our selections, or disagree? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo: CBS Baltimore