Prior to the 2001 season I recall feeling that on the heels of a Super Bowl XXXV Championship, the next season arrived too fast.

I wanted to bask in the glow of a city of champions just a little longer.

Starting the season meant that the title of “Defending World Champions” would only last another 5 months, save a repeat title.

Of course the season ending knee injury to Jamal Lewis and then the loss of free agent right tackle Leon Searcy made the season an uphill climb from jump street.

Elvis Grbac did little to squelch the developing concerns and the quest to repeat fell short as the Ravens were easily knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round by their arch-rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Naturally we all hope for a better outcome in 2013 than in 2001 but protecting the crown is extremely difficult. The challenge is even more daunting without the omnipotent presence of Raymond Anthony Lewis, Jr.

Since their inception the Baltimore Ravens have enjoyed the greatness of No. 52. Leadership, determination, perseverance, focus, physicality, excellence – personified.

His relentless pursuit of improving day-to-day, play-to-play, minute-by-minute was undeniable. Teammates got in line and joined in, or they got out of line and eventually walked out.

Opponents respected and feared him. Fans worshipped him. His squirrel dance before each home game was the opening act for the National Anthem.