Have we seen the last of the fearsome Ray Lewis?

Baltimore's Ray Lewis is out for the season with a torn triceps. (Reuters)

Baltimore's Ray Lewis is out for the season with a torn triceps. (Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:37 AM ET

TORONTO - Few people can make the colour purple look mean.

Ray Lewis does.

From his jittery, now-famous dance during pre-game introductions to his snarling on-field face as he smacks around players with his kamikaze, take-no-prisoner attitude, the future hall of famer is arguably the most intimidating player the National Football League has seen in more than a decade.

This is one dog whose bite always has been worse than his bark.

But now come the key questions that are swirling throughout the football world:

Has Ray Lewis crushed his last quarterback?

Has the Baltimore Ravens star delivered his final bone-rattling blow on a wide-eyed opposing running back?

Such a cloud of uncertainly hangs over the future of the veteran linebacker, who has been lost for the season after tearing his triceps against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

At age 37, Lewis himself probably isn’t certain that he’ll be able to play at the same elite level when he is done rehabbing this devestating injury.

There was speculation back in January that Lewis might hang up his cleats for good after the Ravens heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, a bitter defeat that came when Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff missed the potential tying field goal in the dying seconds from just 32 yards out.

But Lewis was quick to clear up that notion to all of us who were in the Ravens locker room after that gut-wrenching setback.

“Is this my last game as a Raven? Absolutely not,” the heart and soul leader of the team said. “It’s just too much. Life offers too much. Every time you step on this field, it’s a true blessing.

“You just have to take losing like a man.”

This time, it’s different.

This time, it is not an erratic kicker that has failed him.

This time, it is his body that has let him down.

Whatever Lewis decides, this certainly is not the way he had imagined leaving the game.

“I don’t think Ray wants to go out like this,” fellow NFL greybeard Ronde Barber, the 37-year-old defensive back of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told the NFL Network on Tuesday.

Lewis has been one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL since breaking into the league in 1997.

On one hand, there are the legal issues that clouded the early portion of his career.

On the other hand, there is the guy who, off the field, does as much for charity as anyone in the Baltimore area.

When he puts on that purple Ravens jersey, Lewis transforms into Jack Lambert, Ray Nitschke and some of the other most intimidating linebackers to ever have stepped on an NFL field.

But there is another softer side to Lewis that the outside world never sees.

It was this version of Ray Lewis that addressed his teammates just minutes after Cundiff’s wide left effort left the Ravens in tatters.

At that time, Lewis told his teammates of a 17-year-old boy that he was mentoring who had come down with cancer.

“I was supposed to see him after this game,” Lewis explained to us afterward. “Then I was told yesterday that he died.

“Do we take the game serious? Yes. But it’s just that — a game.”

A game that will be far poorer should Ray Lewis never play again.

FEAR THESE GUYS

With the future of snarly Ray Lewis up in the air, here is a list of some of the other most intimidating linebackers in NFL history.

Dick Butkus (Bears, 1965-73)

The most intimidating figure in NFL history. Used to goad opposing centres into false starts by growling at them and spitting on the ball before it was snapped. Made blood a part of his uniform.

Jack Lambert (Steelers, 1974-84)

His gap-toothed monsterous mug still remains the face of the Steelers. Said all quarterbacks should wear dresses. When scouts first went to see him at Kent State, the team, for some reason, was training on a gravel parking lot. Lambert would tackle guys full speed, then get up and pull stone shards out of his flesh.

Lawrence Taylor (Giants, 1981-93)

His combo of speed and strength changed the art of pass rushing forever. As for his ferocity, go look for a replay of when he snapped Joe Theismann’s leg. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t.

Chuck Bednarik (Eagles, 1949-62)

“Concrete Charlie” played centre on offence and linebacker on defence. Is there a more famous photo in NFL history than Bednarik standing over the motionless torso of New York Giants pretty boy Frank Gifford like a predator hovering over its helpless prey?

Mike Singletary (Bears, 1981-92)

Will forever be known for those darting, piercing eyes. The quarterback of a 1985 Bears defence considered by many to be the best ever.

Ray Nitschke (Packers (1958-1972)

When the bleachers at the Packer practice field collapsed on Nitschke one day, coach Vince Lombardi said; “He’ll be fine. Get back to work!” Nitschke did just that, despite the fact that a spike had wedged into his helmet. Now that’s one tough hombre.

Brian Urlacher (Bears, 2000-present)

If any modern day player not named Ray Lewis could make Butkus proud, it’s this guy.

Sam Huff (Giants, 1956–63; Redskins 1964–1969)

When then-Giants defensive coach Tom Landry first implimented the 4-3, Huff became the game’s first middle linebacker and set the standard forever. Huff’s on-field philosophy? “You can run on a football field but you can’t hide out there,” he once said. Point taken.


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