With the Super Bowl on the horizon, most American football fans in the Cayman Islands are focused on Ray Lewis.
Lewis, 37, made it clear weeks ago Super Bowl XLVII would be his last game. While the Lakeland, Florida native is a key part of Baltimore’s defence, local Ravens supporters like Richard Campbell are not worried about the club’s ability to compete.
“I’m not scared of next year,” Campbell said. “We did well without Ray last year and we did pretty well until the last part of this season with him out.
“Ray will be missed for sure but Baltimore will do fine without him,” he added. “They got some guys that can play. We got Lardarius Webb, who is back from injury. Corey Graham is there, Bernard Pollard is pulling his weight.
“I’m worried about Ed Reed because after this season, he might go, too,” Campbell said. “The salary cap is a issue. Signing Joe Flacco could mean losing Paul Kruger, a force on the defensive line and Haloti Ngata, a very tough defensive lineman.”
Lewis, a former Miami Hurricane, leads the Ravens into battle this Sunday, 3 February, in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans serves as the venue with CBS televising the contest from 6.30pm.
Aside from Lewis, focus will rest on two brothers fighting for the Lombardi trophy as head coaches in Baltimore’s John and San Fran’s Jim Harbaugh. A pair of quarterbacks, in the Ravens’ Joe Flacco and the Niners’ Colin Kaepernick, are contending for national respect.
For Ravens fan Rohan Marshall, next year will be tough, though a victory on Sunday will ease the pain of Lewis’ loss.
“Next year they have to find new cornerbacks and linebackers,” Marshall said. “Terrell Suggs is a tremendous player, but Ray would pick up the five yards that Suggs might have missed. I’m still rooting for the Ravens regardless.
“Drama like that makes for a great Super Bowl,” he added. “You got the two brothers as head coaches playing against each other. The teams have the same offence and the defences are a little different. They got a young buck in Kaepernick who runs the ball; make no mistake, Ravens fans are worried about him. The story lines are great and it should be a great game either way.”
Sunday’s game will mark the end of a storied career that saw Lewis win a Super Bowl in 2000 and be named Super Bowl XXXV’s Most Valuable Player. He also earned Defensive Player of the Year honours twice and was named to 13 Pro Bowls.
This year was trying as the middle linebacker tore his triceps back in mid-October and played only six regular season games. With his Ravens stumbling into the playoffs, Lewis announced earlier this month that he would retire at the end of the season.
After that, 10-6 Baltimore would go from barely winning its division to defeating Andrew Luck’s 11-5 Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning’s 13-3 Denver Broncos and Tom Brady’s 12-4 New England Patriots in the playoffs.
While most pigskin lovers in Cayman are behind Lewis, some feel the positive momentum will not catapult the Ravens to a championship. Niners fan Rupert Whittaker states the match-ups don’t favour Baltimore.
“San Francisco will get away with it, they’re more complete,” Whittaker said. “Their defence is better and no one on the Ravens can match up with Kaepernick if he gets open and outside of the pocket.
“I’m a Niners and Patriots fan so for me, if New England’s Aquib Talib wasn’t hurt Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin wouldn’t have made his catches to beat us,” he said. “But I knew it was over when Brady threw his interceptions.”
Outside of his ability on the field, Lewis will be remembered for his controversial nature off of it. While he does a lot of charity work and is a self-professed Christian, he was involved in two stabbing deaths after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta and has six children from four women and he has never been married.
This week, it was suggested Lewis took a performance-enhancing drug in his recovery from the triceps injury. He denied the allegation.
“Two years ago, it was the same report,” Lewis said. “I wouldn’t give that report any of my press. It’s not worthy of that. Next question.”