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Haloti Ngata Retires As A Raven, Will Join Ring Of Honor In 2020

May 29, 2019
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Haloti Ngata first declared his NFL career over with a dramatic proclamation atop Mount Kilimanjaro. The All-Pro defensive lineman made it official May 29, formally retiring as a member of the Baltimore Ravens organization that drafted him and with which he won a Super Bowl title.

In an auditorium packed with former teammates, family members and invited fans sporting Ngata's No. 92 jersey, Ngata said, "I always wanted to retire as a Raven."

At the news conference announcing Ngata's retirement, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti announced Ngata would be inducted in the team's Ring of Honor -- but Bisciotti also announced that former head coach Brian Billick would be the next Ring of Honor inductee this fall. Ngata will be inducted in 2020.

Ngata, 35, played 13 seasons in the NFL, including the first nine with the Ravens after they leapfrogged the Cleveland Browns to snag the former Oregon star with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2006 draft. 

That came not long after future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis had publicly called out the Ravens for lacking bulk and strength up front, getting away from a formula that had helped them become the league's most dominant defense. 

With the athletic, mauling, 347-pound Ngata demanding double- and triple-teams, linebackers such as Lewis, Bart Scott and Jameel McClain could pursue ball carriers and quarterbacks with abandon. In each of Ngata's first six seasons, the Ravens ranked among the league's top five rushing defense.  

Ngata was named to the Pro Bowl five straight seasons from 2009-2013 and was a first-team All-Pro in 2010 and 2011. He recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2010 and set a career best with 64 tackles in 2011. 

Former general manager Ozzie Newsome said Ngata "checked all those boxes" as a Hall of Fame candidate, noting that he played on winning teams, he won a Super Bowl, and he was a dominant player at his position in his era. Newsome also said if Hall of Fame voters talk to players who played against Ngata, they'll say, "Yeah, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."

Ngata missed just nine games in nine years with the Ravens, battling through injuries along the way. His combination of toughness and physical play epitomized the organizational mantra to "play like a Raven."

He famously broke the nose of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 when his forward raked across Roethlisberger's face during a sack, a hit he said was perhaps the favorite of his career. "Didn't do it on purpose," he said with a smile. 

Ngata's clean, downfield hit on then-Washington Redskins -- and current Ravens -- quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012 sidelined Griffin with a knee injury and altered the trajectory of Griffin's career. 

Ngata had 35 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in 2014, but the next spring he was traded in a move designed to create cap space. Ngata, with a cap figure $16 million, was dealt to the Detroit Lions for a pair of draft picks, one of which, a fourth-rounder, netted linebacker Za'Darius Smith. 

Ngata acknowledged he was "kind of shocked a little bit" when the Ravens dealt him, but he and Newsome said they understood it was strictly a business decision. Ngata said he told Newsome at the time that, "I definitely want to come back and be a Raven when I'm done."

Ngata played three seasons for the Lions and then closed out his career with the Philadelphia Eagles this past season, and he said toward the end of this past season, he began to seriously contemplate retirement. 

He finished his career with 515 tackles, 32.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and five interceptions over 180 regular-season games. Ngata reached the playoffs in nine of his 13 NFL seasons, winning his lone Super Bowl title with the Ravens after the 2012 season. 

"This is an amazing organization," Ngata said. "They do everything right by their fans and players. ... I couldn't wait to come back and be able to say I retired a Raven."

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox