They are perhaps the most dominant offensive and defensive players of their generation.
One is a former first-round pick who succeeded immediately, the other an overlooked prospect who revived a dormant franchise.
Ray Lewis and Tom Brady are sometimes seen as opposites, in both their personalities and their playing styles. What unites them is their unbelievable will to win. Both have been named Super Bowl MVP and have gone on to become the cornerstone of their respective franchises.
Lewis' announcement Wednesday that he will retire after the 2012-2013 season provides a good opportunity to look back on one of the NFL's most intriguing player rivalries of the past decade.
Brady and Lewis have squared off seven times, including two playoff matchups, with the Patriots winning on five occasions. New England and Baltimore split two postseason contests, with the Ravens winning a divisional game in Foxboro in 2010 and the Patriots taking the 2012 AFC championship game.
Despite some shots at Brady, Lewis has been effusive in his praise of the Patriots quarterback. He said Brady is the "greatest of the greats," and spoke highly of Brady for the NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2011" special.
"The game ain't hard to him," Lewis said. "It's like 'The Matrix,' where it slows down. It's poetry when you see it from that angle."
Brady hasn't been as public in his praise of Lewis, but he did have high praise for Lewis when the two met on the field after last year's AFC championship game.
While they are fierce competitors on the field, after the game ends they show each other the utmost respect. They've even joined forces for a humorous NFL commercial.
Most NFL cities aren't fortunate enough to have a single player rise to be the face of a franchise. A player that fans can identify with, a man who is almost a part of the culture of that city. Baltimore and New England have that, and if we're lucky, we'll see those two legends square off one more time.
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