Time for Ravens to send out Lewis a winner

There will always be a debate about whether Ray Lewis was the greatest defensive player in NFL history. Where there should be no argument is this: He's the greatest leader in league history.

Lewis is able to tap into his team's pulse like no one else. Now it's time for the team to pay him back the only way that's fitting -- by winning a Super Bowl.

The odds are certainly against it. The Ravens are extremely banged-up. They backed into the playoffs by losing four of their last five games.

But now the Ravens have a rallying point unlike any other team in the postseason: Win one for Ray. Win one for the greatest defensive player of his generation. Win one for the player who has defined the Ravens in Baltimore.

Over his 17-year career, Lewis has put this team and franchise on his back. How many times did the Ravens win with Lewis' defense when they didn't have a quarterback? How many times did they win with a Lewis tackle like the one in San Diego a few years ago? How many times did they win because of one of his interceptions or deflected passes?

But it's more than what Lewis has done on the field. No one has been able to motivate a team like Lewis. And he's a motivator to the end, announcing his retirement just days before the start of the playoffs.

Lewis has put together a Hall of Fame career. His teammates can give him a storybook ending.