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Even though Ray Lewis is entering his 16th year, the Ravens aren’t necessarily looking for his heir in this year’s NFL Draft.
According to Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, finding another Lewis is an impossible task.
Arguably the greatest draft pick in Ravens history, the former first-rounder (1996) is still playing at an extremely-high level.
“How can you follow Ray Lewis? It’s impossible to do. It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to get another Ray Lewis,” said Hortiz. “There’s been one Ray Lewis, and those guys are rare. We’re blessed to have him on this team and be able to watch him go into his 16th season.
“All of us and the City of Baltimore have been touched by him in one way or another.”
Lewis, coming off his 12th Pro Bowl season, finished his 2010 campaign leading the team with 145 tackles, four pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
In other words, the 35-year-old was all over the field, so much, in fact, that Lewis only missed five of 1,111 snaps last year.
That’s not to say the Ravens haven’t been looking at middle linebackers, as reports surfaced on Wednesday that Ravens Linebackers Coach Dean Pees had dinner and a private workout with Oregon’s Casey Matthews, who is near the top of his class.
Draft analysts typically have considered North Carolina’s Quan Sturdivant, Martez Wilson of Illinois and Greg Jones out of Michigan State as the other top middle linebackers.
Hortiz didn’t think any of them could fill Lewis’ cleats. The Ravens also have Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe on their roster at middle linebacker.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I haven’t seen another Ray Lewis except the one that’s on our team,” Hortiz noted. “To say we’re going to find another one is a great goal, but it’s not realistically an easy thing to do.”
As for Lewis, he continually laughs off any suggestion of retirement.
The Baltimore Sun reported in February that there were “a lot of rumors swirling” about Lewis retiring in 2011, but he quickly refuted that notion.
“I’ve never heard that in my life,” Lewis said on The Dan Patrick Show at the time. “We can not listen to what everybody writes. We know this. No way.”
At the end of the day, Lewis’ situation won’t influence how Hortiz and the Ravens’ personnel department will conduct business in the coming weeks.
“I don’t think Ray’s status affects how we go about middle linebackers,” Hortiz said. “Obviously, when the time comes we’ll need to replace him, but there’s nothing to say that that guy’s not already on board. If he’s not, we’ll address it.
“The way Ray played last year, he seems ageless. There’s really not added pressure at this time to replace Ray Lewis because he’s playing so well today.”