"So yeah," Kruger said. "You could say we're playing for Ray. But what that means to us is that nobody wants to be the guy who lets him down."
That wasn't a problem Sunday night, at least not once the Ravens took the Patriots' measure. After nosing in front 13-7 by halftime, Baltimore's defense stiffened and held New England scoreless the rest of the way.
"Second half, baby, was 21-0!" Suggs screamed in the next locker over from Lewis. "My wife told me, baby, quit watching tape and come to bed, you're going to win by 10. And she was only off by five points!"
Lewis looked over at his teammate and covered his mouth to stop from laughing out loud.
Though it wouldn't hurt, Lewis doesn't need another Super Bowl, let alone another Pro Bowl, to secure his legacy. At least not the football portion of it.
Lewis won the NFL's biggest prize once already, in 2000, and was named MVP in that game to boot. He's been picked for the Pro Bowl 13 times.
But a trip back to the big game will carry echoes of his last trip there, a year after Lewis was charged in a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub a year earlier. Under an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and testified against his two former co-defendants. Neither was convicted, and Lewis eventually reached undisclosed cash settlements with the victims' families.
Lewis worked hard to rebuild his reputation, eventually working his way back into the graces of the NFL. Humbled, he volunteered to speak at rookie orientation sessions and slowly won back the kind of respect that had nothing to do with his play on the field.
"Ray's a guy that's turned everything over," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's surrendered everything and he's become the man that he is to this day. He's a different man than he was when he was 22 or 15 or whatever. I think everybody sees that right now. I think it's a great thing for kids to see. It's a great thing for fathers to see. It's a great thing for athletes to see.
"It's," Harbaugh said, "a very special deal."
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.
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