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Jarret Johnson's lasting mark on Ravens

Here is my belated piece on linebacker Jarret Johnson, a longtime Baltimore Ravens linebacker who announced his retirement Tuesday.

Jarret Johnson probably falls short in seeing his name placed into the Ravens' Ring of Honor, but that doesn't mean the gritty linebacker didn't leave a mark on this franchise -- or opposing players.

In September 2011, Johnson exacted the revenge that every Ravens player and fan has long dreamed out. He paid back Hines Ward for years of alleged cheap shots by hitting the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver so hard that he laid him out on his back.

"When I hit him, I didn't expect him to do a freakin' flip," Johnson said at the time.

On a defense that was headlined by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Johnson handled all of the dirty work, wrestling blockers to set the edge and sacrificing his body.

Johnson wasn't the biggest linebacker and certainly wasn't the fastest, but no one outworked him or gave more effort.

"In 38 years of coaching, he may be the most physical, toughest football player that I've ever been around," former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said.

During Johnson's seven years as a starter for the Ravens (2005-13), the defense ranked in the top 10 every season. four other Baltimore linebackers made it to the Pro Bowl in this span (Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas), but the unheralded rock was Johnson.

He played in 130 straight games, the longest streak by a Ravens offensive or defensive player. He never missed a game due to injury in his nine years with the Ravens.

Lewis once likened him to a "construction worker" on the Ravens' gritty defense.

"He's just going to always come to work," Lewis said. "He doesn't have that glamorous job ... he just loves doing what he does. And anytime that you can play with a warrior like that, there is no greater reward when you actually get to play alongside somebody like that."

Johnson and the Ravens amicably split after the 2011 season. The Ravens wanted to get younger and had Paul Kruger waiting in the wings. Johnson went to the San Diego Chargers in free agency, but not without another lasting shot to his longtime rival.

Asked if his departure is less painful because he didn't go to the Steelers in free agency, Johnson said, "I told everybody if I went to Pittsburgh, I would've had to throw up on my jersey every time we played."