On Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce its newest group of inductees.
There’s no doubt linebacker Ray Lewis will easily gain enshrinement. He’s the most important Raven of all-time, a former Super Bowl MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
And there’s a strong possibility linebacker Brian Urlacher will join him — if not this year, then in the very near future.
He was the heartbeat of Chicago’s defense, a former Defensive Player of the Year as well. Some believe he was not quite at the level of Lewis, but not too far behind.
Yet according to another hall finalist who played against both, it’s Urlacher who is at the top of his list.
This comes as heresy to some football fans, who consider Lewis as perhaps the greatest inside linebacker in NFL history.
But Kevin Mawae, a longtime center for the Seahawks, Jets and Titans, says he goes by what he saw.
“I’ve got to view it in the lens of how I played against guys — not as if I was the coach,” Mawae said. “I’ve got to do it in how I played against them. To me, Ray was all over the place — an athletic guy, but he was not a downhill hitter. He’s not taking on offensive linemen. He was a jump-around guy.”
In other words, Lewis was frequently able to chase the football freely, while his defensive linemen tied up would-be blockers.
“With Ray, I mean, he was physical at the point of attack … at the tackle … and making the plays,” said Mawae. “And both of the guys were equally smart in diagnosing and getting a defense lined up. But, from an offensive lineman’s standpoint, Ray Lewis was not going to come down and hit you. He was going to try to make you miss — a lot like Junior Seau. Seau didn’t take on blocks. He kind of jumped around.”
Urlacher, says Mawae, didn’t need help.
“Urlacher did all the stuff Ray did. But he played downhill on you. He’s going to come in and put his helmet on you and shed blocks. I never felt that way about Ray. And whenever we played Ray, it was never like … ‘Oh, man I’ve gotta’ … I felt a bigger challenge for me was playing Zach Thomas than Ray Lewis. That’s just a personal view.”
Lewis was a first-team All-Pro seven times, while Urlacher was first-team four times.
It’s fairly uncommon for voters to send multiple players at the same position to Canton, but these were two all-time greats, no matter what order you place them.
Hall of Fame announcements always make for a great appetizer to the Super Bowl.
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