What is Ray Lewis' Secret?

Last week, he watched a former teammate and fellow late-thirtysomething, Derrick Mason, call it a career after 15 seasons of pro football.

Monday, he watched LaDainian Tomlinson, a running back four years his junior, walk away from the NFL.

But Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis isn’t seriously contemplating the end of his career. Even though he turned 37 last month, he is preparing for his 17th season in the NFL in 2012.

What has enabled him to outlast not only so many players of his generation but also those who are younger?

His maniacal devotion to fitness and sheer love of football certainly have contributed to his longevity, but Lewis mentioned another factor when he spoke to reporters at the Ravens’ minicamp last week.

The fact that he has played his entire career with one team has helped him keep going, he said.

Asked about Mason, who played in Tennessee for eight years before spending six with the Ravens, Lewis said, “He’s one of the best receivers I’ve been around, but he had a couple of different homes. And that kind of drains you. Being here in Baltimore for 17 years (is) a different energy. You never really think about, ‘Oh, when’s it going to come? I’ve been traded to this team. I’ve moved on.’”

Mason was cut by the Ravens in a salary cap purge a year ago and played briefly for the New York Jets and Houston Texans in 2011, but neither valued his services and he saw the writing on the wall. Similarly, Tomlinson parted ways with the San Diego Chargers after nine seasons and spent two lesser years with the New York Jets before retiring Monday.

Lewis, meanwhile, has continued to start for the Ravens and earn Pro Bowl selections. Although he has played through a handful of contracts and shopped his services on the open market several times, including as recently as two years ago, he has never worn another uniform.

“For a lot of guys, that’s kind of a sign for them. If I’m trading teams here and there, OK, my window could be closing,” Lewis said. “For me, the relationship that (GM) Ozzie (Newsome) and (owner) Steve (Bisciotti) and I have, and the relationship I have with my body is ‘go as long as you want to go.’ And so that thought process (of walking away) never comes up. Whenever it happens, it happens. But it’s definitely nothing that I think about.”

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