By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Jack Cornell's focus never waned, not even for a second.
"At the time, it was all business," he said.
It had to be.
For the last month or so, Cornell has been working with both the offensive and defensive lines on the Baltimore Ravens' scout team, helping them make a postseason push and get prepared for Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Along the way, he had the chance to line up in front of future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who jumped in to help the defensive scout team while working his way back from a torn triceps muscle.
"That's one of those moments, after all is said and done, where you're like, ‘That's pretty amazing,'" said Cornell, a graduate of Quincy Notre Dame and the University of Illinois. "Like I said, at the time, it was all business."
That's the way the entire week has been.
Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and linchpin of one of the league's most dominant defenses, announced this week this would be his "last ride." Lewis will retire at season's end after 17 seasons as one of the toughest, most passionate and best linebackers in league history.
"Anybody who knows football saw it coming," Cornell said. "The game takes a toll. He's played the Mike linebacker for 17 years. It's pretty amazing, pretty incredible."
It should be pretty intense seeing Lewis take the field Sunday, too.
"I get to see it in person," Cornell said. "He plays with such passion. You want to see that."
So many people do, which is why Lewis' announcement made major headlines and dominated ESPN coverage. Still, Cornell said the amount of media milling around the Ravens' facility hasn't been much different than a normal week.
"Oh, you're seeing a lot more familiar faces, the ones you typically see on TV," Cornell said. "There's always a lot of media around here."
They don't serve as a distraction.
Cornell said nothing will.
"We're fighting and working to be playing next week," he said. "This is what you work for. This is what you play for."
That's what the Ravens expect. Baltimore is in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, seventh time in the last decade and ninth time since winning the Super Bowl in 2000.
Such success is the byproduct of effort, something that is demanded of everyone in the organization.
"It's about the way they work, the way they grind," Cornell said.
And it's about being prepared. After spending four months on the practice squad, Cornell feels great physically. He credits that to the offseason conditioning and the steps he has taken to eat right, get rest and treat his body as a commodity.
It also has him ready should he be needed.
In November, the Ravens signed tight end Alex Silvestro to the practice squad, and Silvestro's presence is a reminder anything can happen. Signed as a rookie free agent in 2011 by the New England Patriots, Silvestro spent the entire season on the practice squad.
The day before the Super Bowl, he was added to the 53-man roster when the Patriots released Tiquan Underwood. Although Silvestro didn't play in the game, he was suited up and ready.
Cornell will be ready, too.
Just in case.